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Millions Like Us: Women's Lives During the Second World War Paperback – 15 Mar 2012
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About the Author
Virginia Nicholson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, grew up in Yorkshire and Sussex, and studied at Cambridge University. She lived abroad in France and Italy, then worked as a documentary researcher for the BBC. Her books include the acclaimed social histories Among the Bohemians, Singled Out, Millions Like Us, and Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes. She is married with three grown-up children and lives in Sussex.
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It is fortunate (for the book) that this was a time when many women kept diaries for their own amusement or out of habit, and for Mass Observation, the movement that encouraged people to keep a diary of everyday events and send them in. In addition, Nicholson has conducted countless interviews with women who lived through it; fortunately many of the interviewees were able to look back with some detachment and speak with extraordinary frankness about their own thoughts and feelings, and those of their friends and acquaintances. Like The Great War, WW2 resulted in massive social change; here we watch it changing before our very eyes.
This is a fascinating, even riveting, book and well deserves the plaudits on the front cover: readable, haunting, intensely moving, vividly entertaining, uplifting, humbling… and much more in that vein.
This book is not a feminist diatribe but gives an excellent informative glimpse into that time without any form of critisism.
If you have studied this subject in any depth (I wrote my MA dissertation many years ago on a similar theme) you will already know much of the material eg diaries by Nella Last, Joan Wyndham, Clara Milburn etc. But the testimonies of the women that the author actually interviewed were interesting and enlightening.
I also felt the author rather over-stresses 'femininity' as an important factor in winning the war. I've always felt that Britain's exploitation of the female workforce was a major advantage (whereas Germany wanted women to stay at home and produce more blond-haired babies) and there is no doubt that as well as tackling unfamiliar work in factories, shipyards, the armed services etc, women had to overcome male prejudices and a patriarchal attitude towards them. Add that to the other difficulties to be endured with rationing, bombing, the blackout etc and you see how much these women were to be admired for putting 'natural feminine feelings' to one side.
alive what life was like, especially for women during the war, either in Britain or serving abroad. Having grown up in wartime Britain, I recalled and recognised here exactly what life was like then. Nicholson has meticulously researched her material, official accounts and personal diaries, but has presented it all as a living, warm and sympathetic account. You feel you really know these women and I appreciated more what my mother and others had done for me as together we lived though that extraordinary time.