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Books set in 40s/50s

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Initial post: 21 Sep 2009 23:35:48 BDT
Can anyone recommend good books set around this period in Britain?

Just finished Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth which was a really interesting read about her time as a midwife in 1950's London.

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 00:38:42 BDT
JW says:
The Outcast by Sadie Jones - set in the 50's. Had some mixed reviews but I enjoyed it.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Sep 2009 12:41:44 BDT
Reader says:
Try Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky, or Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton.

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 12:49:36 BDT
C. Rucroft says:
I got a good book at the weekend, which is set in modern times, but she travels back to the 50's. Most of it is set in the 50's. It's called 'The Accidental Time Traveller' by Sharon Griffiths and I thought the synopsis looked fantastic.
Of course, if you liked 'Call the Midwife', there are two follow ups; 'Shadows of the Workhouse' and 'Farewell to the East End'.

Happy Reading!

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Sep 2009 12:51:01 BDT
Small Island By Andrea Levy is a great war-time novel with a difference.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Sep 2009 12:59:43 BDT
LEP says:
All the James Herriot vet books are set during those periods.

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 21:05:25 BDT
Thanks for the suggestions. Will add them to my list.

Will check out Jennifer Worth's others after a few other reads. Don't like to read one author over and over as I get bored!

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 21:38:11 BDT
C. Madden says:
Echoes and Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy, anything by Maureen Lee, The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher, Overture by Anita Burgh, lots of Lesley Pearse novels start in the 50s and go into the 60s, Anne Bennett's books are all either pre during or post war books. A few to keep you going!

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 21:58:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Sep 2009 21:58:46 BDT
C. Madden says:
Karen Mason's Mad about the Boy is also set in the 50s ; she's a new author and very good. I know there are loads and loads set in this period; you'll have no trouble finding lots to read.

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 23:44:17 BDT
Jen Errik says:
Parts of 'Atonement' are set during WW2. As is Mary Renault's 'The Charioteer'. And E.M Delafield's book 'The Diary of a Provincial Lady' has a section 'The Provincial Lady in Wartime.' And while you tend to think of crime writers setting their books in the thirties, some of them are set later - I know Ngaio Marsh had some set after the war, as did Agatha Christie.
It's easier to remember 40's set books - because the period plays such a role in the story. The only one I can think of offhand that I'm sure is set in the 50's is Mary Stewart's 'Wildfire at Midnight' - Everest is conquered during the book, which makes it 1953. However it's not my favourite of her books, and the others that are set in that period all take place abroad (I think).

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Sep 2009 10:53:23 BDT
real cat says:
Just read this summer Tell it to the Bees by Fiona Shaw. Wonderful novel set in England in the 50s. Kind of a three-hander where the author really gets inside the characters, including the boy, Charlie. Got love, suspense, childhood loss. I really enjoyed it.

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 11:25:14 BDT
C. Rucroft says:
LEP - I actually live in Thirsk, which is where James Herriot lived and worked. His vetinary surgery has now been made into a museum (The World of James Herriot). BUT...I have never read a single one of his books. I shall hang my head in shame...

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 17:12:31 BDT
Here are a few novels set in the 1940s and 50s that may pique your interest:


The author "follows the lives and loves of three girls, Hetty, Una and Lieselotte, who are in transition from home to university in the Yorkshire of 1946. All three have suffered some fallout from war but have achieved academic success and have been offered university scholarships. Before they begin their studies, however, they have additional emotional lessons to learn.

"Gardam explores the life and development of each character in turn, and projects the reader into a vivid post-war reality. Hetty loves her battle-scarred father--now the local gravedigger--who haunts the locale, but she yearns to escape the clutches of her possessive mother and finds temporary solace with an intelligent but dull lance corporal. Una goes cycling with Ray, the boy who used to deliver fish, as she forms her first relationship with a male after the suicide of her father--someone who was also a victim of an affliction called "war". Silent Lieselotte, a Jew from Hamburg who was on the last refugee train out, visits York, London and America as she searches for her family and roots, encountering a myriad of memorable experiences (the images of a bombed London are particularly startling and evocative)."

2) CONFUSION (Vol. 3 of The Cazalet Chronicles) - Elizabeth Jane Howard

"London and Sussex, 1942. The English family in turmoil...

"The long, dark days of struggle provide the poignant background to the third book of the Cazalet Chronicle. As the war enters its fourth year, chaos has become a way of life.

"Both in the still peaceful Sussex countryside, and in air-raid-threatened London, the divided Cazalets begin to find the battle for survival echoing the confusion in their own lives..."

3) CASTING OFF (the fourth and final volume of The Cazalet Chronicles) - Elizabeth Jane Howard

"The aftermath of war, and the slow dawning of a new era of freedom and opportunity, shape the destinies of the Cazalets in the final volume of this magnificent family saga. Polly, Clary and Louise, now grown up, are ready to discover the truth about the adult world. While Rupert, Hugh and Edward must make the choices that will decide their own - and the family's - future. For the Cazalets, and all those close to them, one end is another beginning... "


Takes place in the British countryside in the immediate postwar era.

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 22:15:22 BDT
Harry Rufus says:
Miss Marple books by Agathie Christie are set in 40s/50s, I think.

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 22:28:14 BDT
Trinny says:
Elizabeth Edmondson has written a number of books set in the 30's and leading up to 2WW, really enjoyable and well written.

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 22:28:37 BDT
Ashley says:
The Accidental Time Traveller

The Accidental Time Traveller by Sharon Griffiths is very enjoyable, also interesting

Posted on 24 Sep 2009 03:02:23 BDT
Here are a few other novels set in Britain during the 1940s and 1950s...

1) GOOD EVENING, MRS. CRAVEN: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

"The twenty-one stories in 'Good Evening, Mrs. Craven' were written between 1939 and 1944. ... It is the world of 'Atonement' and 'The Night Watch' seen from a contemporary perspective..."

2) THE REST OF OUR LIVES - Jeannie Johnson

"The Second World War is over and the people of Bristol must count the cost. At the railway station three women from very different backgrounds meet whilst waiting for their loved ones to come home."

These women "attempt to rebuild their lives as they cling to the hhope that they can put the War behind them. But, as their friendships grown, they soon realize nothing can ever be the same again."

3) ONE FINE DAY - Mollie Panter-Downes

"It is a hot July day in 1946. The English village of Wealding is no longer troubled by distant sirens, yet the rusting coils of barbed wire are a reminder
that something, some quality of life, has evaporated."

This novel "presents a memorable portait of the aftermath of war, its effect upon a marriage and a family, charting, too, a gradual but significant change in the nature of English middle-class life."

4) A PENNY FOR TOMORROW - Jeannie Johnson

This novel takes up where "The Best of Our Lives" left off. "It is 1953, Coronation year, and time for new beginnings. Like many cities, Bristol is patching itself up after the war but for three women, the future looks as uncertain as it is unknown..."

5) LUCKY JIM - Kingsley Amis

Takes a look at life at a British college in the 1950s.

Posted on 24 Sep 2009 11:04:33 BDT
The Night Watch by Sarah Walters is set in the 1940s.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2009 11:11:59 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Sep 2009 11:18:06 BDT
S. Pell says:
Anything by Patrick Hamilton - Sarah Walters did the Night Watch but to be honest I could not get into it. Also check out Neville Shute books - he has written more than a Town Like Alice

Posted on 24 Sep 2009 12:08:34 BDT
"The Earth Hums In B Flat" is a 1st novel by Mari Strachan. It is set in North Wales in the late forties.
It is extremely well researched and an excellent account of that period. I thoroughly enjoyed it and
recommend it.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2009 14:50:03 BDT
dreamer says:
hi have also just read the midwife like you thought it was great could not put it down also like you i enjoy the same sort of time scale you do except i go back to 1940s as well try reading leaving of liverpool also mother of pearl both by maureen lee both excelant also tomorrows promises by anne jacobs thing you would enjoy all three

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2009 15:29:40 BDT
Try "A Blues for Shindig" by Mo Foster. Im just reading it now. Its set in 1950s Soho, and has the feeling of being written by someone who was there. The post war, seedy, grubby London it shows is real and enlightening.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2009 16:10:18 BDT
Try the Inspector Vignoles Mysteries: 'Smoke gets in your eyes' (set in 1946) and 'The Murder of Crows' (set in 1947) third in the series, 'The Torn Curtain', set in 1948 is due out in November 2009.
Lots of period atmosphere, music, and a good 'Foyle's War' style storyline.

Hope these prove of interest.


In reply to an earlier post on 25 Sep 2009 11:37:50 BDT
'Bobby's Girl' by Bernie Morris is set in late 50s to early 60s, but told from a teenage viewpoint. It's a blend of chick-lit and mystery with mild violence and some strong language. New edition coming soon.

Posted on 25 Sep 2009 14:27:48 BDT
Cosmo says:
The lost Art of keeping Secrets- 1950s- london
Resistance (Owen Sheers) - 1940s Wales
Enigma - Robert Harris- 1940s
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  33
Total posts:  39
Initial post:  21 Sep 2009
Latest post:  14 Aug 2012

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