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Bryan A. Stone "Bryan" (Ettingen, Switzerland)
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Austerity Britain: A World to Build
Austerity Britain: A World to Build
by David Kynaston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climbing out of the ruins, 1 Jun 2010
If you were poor and honest, life in Britain in 1947 meant you were cold and hungry. Rationing allowed bare existence, heat and light failed, jobs were scarce, millions of homes were wanting. Nothing worked properly. If you had money, or office, you could get more, but it was a constant degrading struggle. Underneath was the awareness that the war was won, but that there were no rewards for peace. Kynaston with his extracts from Mass Observation brings it all out as if we were living it, and it is a dreadful picture. Labour was elected to create a new world, but quickly lost its way in the sheer inadequacy of means and leadership. Read about shortages, whale meat, icy cold and then floods, bread rationing, and misery, and imagine how you might have coped. Somehow, they did, and that comes through too.

These books of Kynaston should be required reading for political and economic education, and to realise why 60 years later Britain is still in some ways living with the postwar scars upon society and attitudes.


Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem)
Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem)
by David Kynaston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A land fit for heroes, 1 Jun 2010
Kynaston's books, taken from the 'Mass Observation' source material, represent a serious if never totally impartial insight into the way people lived in the post-WWII decade in Britain. The land was impoverished, unjust, class-ridden, industrially dropping back, and totally unprepared, politically, intellectually or socially for the shock of living in the kind of peace that had followed total war. Shortages and rationing, exhaustion, homelessness and even the weather, and a rising ground swell that great injustice was being done, are set here against the confused but earnest attempts to rebuild and, sometimes, to plan; and it took as long as the war itself, to recover, as this book starting with 1951 shows. Life was still bleak, short and sordid for many. We have forgotten this, and Kynaston lets us through his selection of material feel what it was like. Any selection has to be subjective, but I think he is fair to people and to governments in showing how they struggled, failed, lost their temper, and still laughed and made jokes about every day disasters. But these books go further; they are a judgment on anyone who thinks that the old ways are good enough, and that 'little England' is enough in itself. The seeds of injustice, ignorance and confrontation also in today's British Society go a long way back, and Kynaston lets us see the fruit they bore.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2011 10:50 AM BST


Along Country Lines: Exploring the Rural Railways of Yesterday
Along Country Lines: Exploring the Rural Railways of Yesterday
by Paul Atterbury
Edition: Paperback
Price: 20.23

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia, beauty, railways and a little history, 18 Mar 2010
The lost secondary railways of Britain, their features and their routes, have an undoubted charm in a vulgar age of shopping centres, concrete and parking lots. Once themselves the height of progress, today they are the stuff that dreams are made of, gentle, rural, always with gaslamps and flowerbeds. Of course they were often, from the start, economic nonsense, and many changed little in 100 years. But the book catches this mood, of summer holidays, village churches, home-made jam and dedicated, lifelong service of those who worked them. Atterbury's books are not great railway history, but they are a serious and warming part of social and rural history, when for the first time the villager could go out and see the world, and be back by bedtime.


Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain
Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain
by Matthew Engel
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who deserves today's railways in Britain?, 13 Sep 2009
This is a valuable book, describing why Britain's rail system and services, despite huge potential, still fall behind the standards achieved in most European countries. The political processes are confused, there was no strategic thinking, neither recently nor 100 years ago. Yet public and political interest show uninformed irresponsibility, privatisation is shown up as irrelevant and nothing but dogma, and what there is now, is what today is left. Costs are high, fares are high, the network incoherent, services curiously patchy, Kings Lynn is electrified but Bristol is not, operating practices are heavy-handed, infrastructure is neglected, blockades and repairs paralyse service at critical times. Britain's EU-fellows can and do perform better, and are more professional; and a network of real high speed lines is growing fast - elsewhere, but not in Britain. This book doesn't get it all between two covers, and there are some significvant succeses, as in railfreight and the East Coast Main Line (which the author likes too), but it succeeds in reinforcing the misgivings you already have. There must be a better way for railways to move forward, and after reading it you will be convinced there is. Not a railways book, but a political cry for people of vision who understand society, economy, quality of life and mobility.


Britain from the Rails: A Window Gazer's Guide (Bradt Travel Guides)
Britain from the Rails: A Window Gazer's Guide (Bradt Travel Guides)
by Benedict Le Vay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the train passenger sees more, 13 Sep 2009
This is a fun book, contemporary, insightful, really useful, and well-informed, of the view from the train window. It's not great literature but the writer knows his Britain, his trains and their strengths and weakness, travels for fun with an open mind, knows where to sit, and sees Britain in some of its finest places. I know his 'top ten' of train rides, and he's right, but many of the others he describes have hidden or forgotten treasures. The only things to spoil your pleasure in this book are, those who are bent on destroying what you came to see, and the operating rail companies when they fail to live up to their potential. And who knows? Perhaps this book will show some of them what treasures they have!


Through the Window: The Great Western Railway from Paddington to Penzance 1924
Through the Window: The Great Western Railway from Paddington to Penzance 1924
by Great Western Railway
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.87

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic train window seat, 13 Sep 2009
Why a review? This is a reprint of a legendary book, 85 years old, when the Great Western presented its own country to its would-be passengers. Long a collector's piece, now one can see why, but also understand how the landscape, and our view of it, and also our sense of travel, have changed. Your reviewer has lived 40 years in Switzerland, where the train window view is different, and the book brings back earlier travel and journeys to the English west which I made as a young man, when, despite a war, the GWR route to the west had changed less than it has in more recent times. It is not great lterature, but refreshing is that the English is sensible, clear and free from that irritation, the overloading and buzz-wording of modern advertising texts.

It also shows that those who never rode the route, and believe that Devon and Cornwall are at the end of a motorway, will remain indescribably impoverished. But that too is Britain.


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