The BBC must know they are on to a winner with this one. As I write this, the series 'Wartime Farm' hasn't even started, but the book has already been released.
The format is well known - archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands, along with social historian Ruth Goodman recreate a period of history by living on a farm exactly as they would have done at that time for a TV series.
'Tales from the Green Valley' was a quiet success some years ago, but in recent years 'Victorian Farm' and 'Edwardian Farm' really caught the public's imagination.
Both Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm had great 'books of the programme'; this one is even better.
'Edwardian Farm' suffered slightly from poor proofreading, but here there are no such errors - at least not that I spotted. What there is, is a fascinating guide to farming and rural life in wartime. As always there are unexpected challenges for Peter, Alex and Ruth- such as ploughing by night, making tiles (roofs were frequently damaged in bombing).... and ballroom dancing for a wartime 'hop'.
With the programmes yet to be broadcast at the time of writing it's difficult to say how the book fits into the programmes. However there are eight programmes scheduled and also eight chapter headings. The Victorian & Edwardian Farm books mixed the content of some of the programmes in different chapters, whilst others - like the Christmas celebrations - were less varied.
We are taken through an outline of the 'Farm at War', with details of crops grown and the equipment used. 'Mobilising People' deals with those who worked on the land and elsewhere. As might be expected 'The Home & Garden Front' shows how a home and garden were run. The recipes in 'Wartime Food' will certainly be of interest to those who welcome the current return to fashion of 'old style' living - baking from scratch, making use of cheaper cuts of meat, and generally economising. There's a short section of recipes, with some familiar - Coconut Ice - and some not so familiar such as Baked Potato Pudding.
Livestock -hens, rabbits, pigs, cows, horses - have their own chapter, as does Home Defences, with the role of the Home Guard examined. 'Make Do and Mend' is becoming a motto for today as much as it was in wartime, although not many of us will mend laddered stockings with hair, as Ruth does.
Finally ..And Carry On covers the leisure pursuits such as the aforementioned dancing and Christmas celebrations. Wonderful.
This would be a super book of social history even without the back up of the programmes. Peter, Ruth and Alex are first class writers as well as top-class historians. It's difficult to know how it could be better.
What next? Well, Peter's potted biography in the introduction tells us that he 'has swum the Rio Grande during a flash flood, been forced up a pyramid at gunpoint ... and set fire to himself (twice)." If that isn't worth writing about, I don't know what is.
I doubt if I'll recommend a book more highly this year.