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on 29 February 2004
The authors are right, the living history of the First World War is dying before our eyes and it thoroughly deserves to be recorded.
This fantastic book chooses not to trace the journey of the horrors of the Western Front but instead looks at life back in Britain during the war, drawing upon sources which have not been tapped before. This provides a fanscinating insight into the other side of the story, one which I hadn't ever really thought of before.
I've been to see the cemetaries at Tyne Cot and Ypres and was deeply moved by them, I've seen Hill 60 and the tomb of the unknown soldier but I had never really had spared a thought for those left at home. This book reveals some amazing stories from amazing people.
My only complaint is that I wish the book was longer - every story deserves to be recorded so that the people of my generation know how easy their lives truely are.
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VINE VOICEon 3 August 2014
A great book that was recommended to me as a good book to find out about what it was like to live through the war if you weren't a soldier, and were one of the children, or spouses, or parents, of a soldier. The various chapters each take a different aspect of WWI and explore it through oral histories of people, especially the poorest, who lived through it. Of course, all these people are now perished, and this is what makes this book so very special.

My favourite sections included "East Coast Bombardment", "Caring for the Wounded", and "The Year of Hunger". I found out lots about the Zeppelin raids on Britain, the way that VADs contributed to looking after wounded soldiers, and the way that food shortages affected people's lives.

The stories are entertaining, moving, humbling, gripping, and harrowing by turns. One example is Mary Hardie, aged just 4 when her mum got a telegram saying her husband was missing believed killed in 1916: " Of course, everyone was upset, but after two years had gone by, my mother took up with another man who was a tailor and the two of them worked in our house. We were all very happy. Then, right at the end of the war, another telegram came to say that Father had been released from a prisoner-of-war camp, and was on his way home, and would be arriving the next Saturday." The story goes on, and you see that everyone is a victim of the war in a different way.

This is a fitting book to read today as we commemorate the lives lost in the Great War and the terrible price paid by everyone - the people at home as well as the soldiers. I am so glad this book exists and has captured these memories before they were lost.
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on 1 December 2011
This is one of the best books I've read on the home front of the first world war. Taking the war chronologically, told from the testimonies of the last generation to remember it, it provides and over-all picture while going into sufficient detail to be engrossing. In fact I couldn't put it down!
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on 20 January 2009
This is just a very good (and also very moving) book, highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about a very important era in the history of Europe, but also covering an area much neglected in many of the popular histories available. Whilst the horrors of the Western, Eastern and Italian fronts should never be ignored, the suffering endured by the civilian populations from coastal bombardments, Zeppelin raids, starvation, poverty, child labour and so much more are widely covered in this fascinating read. Stories such as that of Elfie Druhm, living in London after her father's internment or Phyllis Ing's experiences in an orphanage will haunt you forever. A truly unforgettable read.
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on 10 April 2014
thank you a great read for all history buffs of WW1 or if you are just interested local in history
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on 1 April 2015
Oops. I now own two copies of this one. Guess I messed up. Great book though.
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on 15 May 2015
Brought this for my dad. He really enjoyed it
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on 20 June 2015
Excellent well worth reading. Loved it.
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on 31 December 2014
Great book, thanks
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on 10 February 2014
My impression is that this is two books in one. The first (the good bit) are the first hand testimonies of the people involved. I assume this was the part contributed by Richard van Emden and they stand alongside his other contributions from his extensive research among primary sources for the War. The second (the bad bit) is the interpretation of what they mean in terms of the overall social impact of the War on the lives of ordinary people. I assume this was the bit added by Steve Humphries but my apologies if I'm wrong. Often in the face of quotes to the contrary the book is determined to say that the War was one of unrelieved misery, hardship and ill health when most of the evidence is that living standards, especially for the poorest, actually rose. In a discussion on how people were poorer because of the war (p 245) they suggest this was exacerbated by many people having to pay income tax for the first time and make it sound as if tax thresholds had been lowered. In fact there was a rise in gross wages as far more people reached the threshold for paying the tax. Perhaps most outrageous of all is the claim (p 231) that ‘most men died in their late-forties to mid-fifties.’ This is, of course, utter nonsense. The life expectancy for males at birth during the war was around 50. If one reached manhood, your life expectancy was significantly higher. Humphries and van Emden almost comically reveal their failure to understand simple statistics by immediately quoting as an example of how most men died in early middle age a person who ‘had a heart attack and was run over by a steamroller’!
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