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We Are At War: The Diaries of Five Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times Paperback – 2 Mar 2006

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Frequently Bought Together

We Are At War: The Diaries of Five Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times + Private Battles: Our Intimate Diaries: How the War Almost Defeated Us + Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Postwar Britain
Price For All Three: £27.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; New Ed edition (2 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091903874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091903879
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Garfield was born in London in 1960. He is the author of an appealingly diverse and unpredictable canon of non-fiction, including Mauve, The Nation's Favourite, The End of Innocence and The Wrestling, and has edited three popular collections of diaries from the Mass Observation Archive. His quirky history of fonts, Just My Type, turned out to be a hit, which reassured him that he was not alone in his passions.

His latest book is about maps - a wide-ranging, inquisitive and light-footed examination of how we use maps not only to find our way, but also to express all aspects of our lives - from art and crime to politics and cinema. The book is about exploration in its widest sense, travelling from the Great Library at Alexandria to the home of Google Maps, with cartographic diversions via Birmingham, Antarctica, Melbourne, the Himalayas, the East End of London, New York and the Congo. The book has some big questions too: Can men really read maps better than women? Is there anywhere in the world yet to be mapped? Will sat nav be the ruin of us all?

Garfield has been intrigued by maps since he had to find his way around the London Underground as a young boy, and he has been fascinated by geography ever since he was taught it at school by the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley (although admittedly Brearley mostly knew about India and Australia and other places he'd opened the batting).

Garfield also enjoys Hampstead Heath, cycling, globe-spinning by Presuming Ed, and writing by Tracy Kidder, Nicholson Baker, Bella Bathurst, Bill Bryson and Simon Armitage.

Product Description

Review

"Wonderful stuff" (Sunday Times)

"Fascinating, delightful, illuminating. The diarists soon become like old friends ... and make our wartime past seem no more distant than yesterday" (Mail on Sunday)

"It's always easy to imagine people in this period becalmed in a sepia-toned limbo. This book tells the messy, but far more interesting, truth" (Time Out)

"Few books have so successfully stepped inside the minds of the British people during wartime" (Metro)

"A fascinating account of everyday life in Britain" (Good Housekeeping)

Book Description

The highly-acclaimed diaries of ordinary people's lives in WWII, packaged as a massmarket woman's read for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of war

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Gowans on 28 Nov. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The unfolding drama of wartime life is captured faithfully in these first-hand accounts. I wonder what would be the reaction of the diarists to know that in sixty years time their submissions to Mass Observation would be printed and made into a book. I suspect they would secretly be quite pleased that their efforts would be enjoyed by future generations - a kind of immortality. I was particularly moved by Christopher Tomlin's honest descriptions of the struggle to keep his family afloat financially while coping with the anxiety and sleeplessness of incipient invasion. A different world indeed.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Hel S on 30 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
I read each person's account seperately, as they were becoming muddled in my mind. I was struck by the differences between four of the diarists and "Eileen Potter". Why was she included I wonder? All the others had fascinating, interesting tales to tell of their ordinary lives. Hers, by comparison was very dull and was also the most incomplete. With the other four I felt I knew them and had a deep interest in how they ended up in life.

Reading the four complete diaries was an engrossing experience. How different these people were to each other and how similar they are to people today. Nothing much changes, does it? I see that there is another book just published and I shall be buying that one, too.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on 10 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
Continuing the thread begun in Hidden Lives, Simon Garfield offers selections from the Mass-Observation Project diaries of five people caught up in the preparations and then the beginning of the infamous Blitz. The uncertainty, the anger, the fear; it's all here and it leaps off of the pages in a way that keeps you turning them.

Sometimes the diarists are not particularly likeable - you encounter racism and defeatist attitudes at certain points. But that is something that makes this volume particularly interesting. Knowing that these pages are going to be read by others, the diarists are still painfully honest in their fears and their prejudices. Very enlightening, and highly recommended, especially as a companion volume to Hidden Lives.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elisa Wilson on 7 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
In today's world, with hindsight and our intense historical knowledge of the periods encompassing both the World Wars, we feel our knowledge is complete. This book shows, more than anything else, that this is not so, and to read the five diary entries of these very different Mass Observers builds a much truer picture of the first year of war than one I have encountered before. The very difference in each Observer, their ages, their social standing, their environment, are all fundamental in painting a vivid portrayal of the way millions got through a difficult, dangerous and unprecedented period in their history. Some of the voices have strong political opinions, some slate the government, some glory in living in that time in history, whilst others bemoan the cost increases seemingly all around them. For this book Simon Garfield was exceptionally clever to choose such a broad spectrum of people, to understand that period in history is to hear all those voices together.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Jane C. Kirk on 7 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
A fascinating portrait of those who lived in Britain in the immediate days and weeks after the declaration of the start of World War 2. Rationing,,daily comments on national events, this book has it all. Invaluable for social historians of the era it is also a very good general read. Would love to have more like this please!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bullingdon on 23 April 2011
Format: Paperback
These diaries were written for a mass observation project and make compulsive reading, often contradicting official accounts. They give insights into the wavering popularity of Chamberlain and Churchill and show the public's scepticism about media reporting on the progress of the war. The adaptability of individuals to wartime conditions is remarkable. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to get the 'feel' of life in the Second World War.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cambs Gal on 25 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Shortly before the 2nd World War a projest was started whereby some 500 people were asked to record their daily lives and to submit their writings under the umbrella of Mass - Observation. Some people lasted only a few weeks, others carried on all through the war and then after when we were celebrating the end of hostilities but then came the aftermath of war when food was short and unemp;yment began to bite.The diaries are stored in the Special Collections Department of the Library of the University of Sussex.and there discovered by Simon Garfield. He has three books published from some of those diaries, they make wonderful reading and are an insight of the lives of ' ordinary people living in extraordinary times ' The other books are in print and very much worth reading.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Wright on 12 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
Very involving and eye-opening view of the past from the grassroots rather than the usual historical overview. I really got involved with some of the characters' lives and immediately started on 'Our Hidden Lives' when I finished.
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