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War Crimes for the Home Paperback – 7 Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (7 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074756146X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747561460
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 424,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Liz Jensen was born in Oxfordshire in 1959. Her critically-acclaimed work spans black comedy, science fiction, satire, family drama, historical fantasy and psychological suspense. Three of her novels have been nominated for the Orange Prize and in 1998 she was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Award. She is Writer in Residence at Kingston University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her work has been developed for film and translated into more than 20 languages.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Liz Jensen's new novel, War Crimes for the Home, has an unlikely heroine in Gloria Taylor, nee Winstanley, a game old bird who loves a good joke and is not afraid to call a spade a spade. Or a slut a slut.

After a minor stroke, Gloria finds herself in Sea View, an old people's home with a nice big television in the lounge, where, if you look carefully through the big picture window, you can see the sea. There's also a problem with Gloria's memory. She may have Alzheimer's, she may just have selective memory loss-- or if you talk to certain members of her family, she may not have anything wrong with her mind other than a bit of deliberate Gloria bolshiness.

Gloria's son Hank and his family come to visit regularly and one day, a woman called Jill turns up and starts asking funny questions. Gloria would rather everyone just left her alone. It's bad enough seeing that little kid sitting on her bed dripping pond weed and blood most nights. She really annoys Gloria.

Funny thing is Gloria can remember so much about the war, when she and her sister worked in a munitions factory in Bristol and she met Ron, or Raan, the GI who initiated her in the ways of the flesh. One Yank and they're off too true! She can remember her first date with Ron, going to see the Great Zedorro, a hypnotist who got her up on stage and made her feel like a rod of iron. She can remember, the full gory details, the day one of the factory girls lost her arm and half her shoulder. And the day the telegram arrived about her sister's boyfriend and how Marge went off to drive ambulances in London and Gloria got lumbered with an Irish evacuee and her snotty kids. She can even remember much later, after the war finally ended, working as a pro back in London, where her Dad had worked the meat down at Smithfield market.

But there's so much more poor old Gloria can't remember. Things her son and the Jill woman keep ranting on about. Why do they want her to rake over all that boring old stuff? Why can't they just let sleeping dogs lie? What does it all matter now?

In War Crimes for the Home, Liz Jensen has conjured up a fabulously inventive, gripping tale; a sort of modern twist on the whodunnit, or in this case, who-dunn-what, with a very real, very spiky protagonist. Gloria bristles with indignation, speaks her mind however harsh it sounds and loves to shock with her filthy jokes and even filthier suggestions--which means that War Crimes is not for the prudish. It is however a wonderfully original but painfully raw story of an era when people lived in constant fear, hearts ruled heads and everyone lived for the moment. And Gloria was no exception. Although sometimes the moment turned out to be the future and people have to learn to live with the consequences, however unpalatable they may be. --Carey Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"It's a tribute to Jensen that such a brutal tale can be told with jauntiness" -- Daily Mail, July 19th 2002

'A brilliant portrait of England chronicled with skewed humour and compassion by a most gifted and original writer' -- Mail on Sunday

'A moving, hilarious exploration of a life lived in shadow; a story of one woman's - perhaps Everywoman's - war' -- Sunday Times

'Breathtakingly coarse, wryly amusing and gut-wrenchingly tragic' -- Marie Claire

'Jensen is the thinking reader's Kathy Lette ... compelling ... a finely judged, absorbing novel' -- Independent on Sunday

'You will laugh aloud at the beginning - and probably weep at the end' -- Daily Telegraph

‘This is a terribly funny tragedy’ -- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 5th April 2003

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By White Hart Dame VINE VOICE on 9 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Put it this way, I wouldn't lend this to my nan. See, this book tells it like it was, no heroics, no stolen kisses at the NAAFI dance, just hard graft for women pitching in for the war effort, the horrible enevitability of war for the men and how they got through it. Not with powdered egg and Vera Lynn, but living life because it could be your last day on earth. Gloria is not your sweet little old lady. In fact, she is not a very likeable character at all (she swears, likes rude jokes and is trying to seduce a man at the nursing home!) but when you find out through her memories what she went through during wartime, you can sympathise with her. As I say, not your average wartime story but entertaining and thought provoking nonetheless.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Clare Thompson on 5 July 2006
Format: Paperback
You know when you get a completely different perpective of a historical event, and it changes your whole view of that period? Well that has just happened.

War Crimes for the Home is World War 2 from a woman's perpsective, and as well as being glamourous (in parts), it is also really witty. The main character is Gloria, and the story is told by her in her alzheimish old age, with flashbacks to her life during the war. She and her sister work in a munitions factory and after their 12 hour shift go out on the lash to get merry and meet GIs:

You know what they say about GIs and knickers? One Yank and they're off!

Gloria and Marje like sex, I don't know why I was surprised by this. I had this view of the second world war, and probably all periods in history, which didn't really involve visualising the actual people who were a part of it, which of course is ridiculous, because if there were no people, then there would be no history. I think the reason for this is that history in books and films is slightly sanitised, and concentrates solely on events and battles and conflicts, and sometime overlooks the society which is affected. Maybe I am reading the wrong books.

Anyway, I loved the crudeness of the main character, and the fact that she was never ever afraid to admit that she had had sex, and still had it at the age of 76 with a man in her nursing home. I found that refreshing, because it is nice to know that old people still have sex.

Apart from the sex, Gloria is faced with issues from her past, like a daughter she had and blocked out of her life. It is difficult to work out whether she always forgot it, because the present day narrative is based around the fact that she has lost her memory.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By the avid reader on 16 April 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a dark book graphically describing the situation of GI brides, but with many twists and turns. There is a lot of dark humour and corny jokes so loved by the chief character, a revolting, deluded old women called Gloria who looks back at her wartime affair with a handsome, sweet talking American pilot called Ron from Chicago. The author's achievement is to make the reader absorbed in this sordid relationship and to make the story in the context of the exigencies of war very convincing. She cleverly slowly reveals Gloria's secret past and the story by means of hypnosis in some hilarious passages.The book has some genuinely funny episodes but as another reviewer has remarked is not for the prudish.
So if you want to know what your gran or great gran did during the war, this is the book to read. Maybe you should discover their stories before it is too late. They will not be all as outrageous as Gloria's. Or will they?
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 July 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the most strangely brilliant book I've read in ages. War Crimes for the Home tells a deeply poignant story of wartime love and loss on the home front, but it had me laughing too. There's real, earthy humour in there and it's peppered with jokes - most of them very tasteless and un-PC. But the real triumph is the heroine, Gloria (nee Winstanley), a crotchety old woman of `seventy-nine and three-quarters', who's holed up in a dismal old folks home called Sea View because she's losing her marbles. But just how many of them she has lost becomes less and less clear as the book progresses: is she mis-remembering things, inventing them, or deliberately forgetting? As a young woman, Gloria had a love affair with a handsome American airman called Ron, but it was to end in tears. To reveal just what kind of let-down Gloria had - and what crimes she committed to avenge her loss, and just how she had to re-write history to cope, would be to give away too much. But Jensen paces it just right, so that you're turning the pages fast and furious. She also debunks some of the myths of everyday stoicism and heroism in World War Two, and describes with a lot of relish the sort of lives ordinary women led in those savagely difficult times. But best of all, you come to admire and enjoy Gloria, despite the fact that she is in many ways a dislikeable, selfish monster, who does dislikeable, selfish, monstrous things. That's quite an achievement. This is a wonderfully haunting novel - and it tells the story of the war years in a totally new way.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Angela VINE VOICE on 13 April 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a wonderful book!

The character of Gloria was very real and gutsy and wonderful! Unlike many other reviewers, to me, she was utterly sympathetic - I wonder how many of those reviewers had thought about whether they would have liked Gloria more if she had been younger? After all, old ladies just don't ACT like that, do they??

Gloria is a well-detailed and very real character. She has principles and beliefs, she worked hard and she lived through a fearful and distressing war. Throughout it all, she did the very best that she could possibly do and, when lied to and cheated on by those she loved, she continued to do the very best she could.

With hindsight, the decisions she took weren't always the right decisions, but they lead to a fascinating novel and a gripping tale that won't quiet leave you after you've read the last page.
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