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Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49' Paperback – 16 Nov 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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  • Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49'
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  • Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife 49
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  • Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (16 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668000X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680007
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

I adored [it.]. An extraordinary glimpse into the heart of an 'ordinary' woman, Nella Last's day-to-day account of her war is spirited, poignant and utterly compelling. (Lucy Moore)

A classic of wartime literature...highly engaging, very moving. All Home Front life is here, especially the kitchen sink (Simon Garfield)

I relished it...her personality is so powerful...There are so many things to admire about her. (Margaret Forster)

A fantastic story...This is not the war of the newsreels - it's about tiny domestic difficulties, lumpy custard... (Victoria Wood)

About the Author

Suzie Fleming is a feminist writer and speaker; she lives in Cornwall.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having seen Victoria Wood's wonderful period drama last year, Father Christmas heard my request and kindly brought me the book.

I have deliberately taken several weeks to read it because I wanted to savour and enjoy it to the full.

We are so lucky that Nella Last decided to join the Mass Observation Project as she had a natural talent for writing about the everyday "nitty gritty" of the war years. Even though most of us will have heard stories from parents and grandparents about life in the war, inevitably they will be dominated by what the men did. This is wartime life on a daily basis as seen through the eyes of a middle-aged woman who happily writes about everything - shopping, cooking, worrying about her sons, her health, her inexhaustible wish to "do something", sleep deprivation, sex (yes, sex!) - it's all there. Obviously the MOP sent out questionnaires from time to time requesting particular information, but Nella uses her diary to chronicle her innermost thoughts with a very heavy emphasis on her marriage, her undying love for her boys and especially "a woman's lot". She could see that when the war was over (assuming that Germany did not win) life would be very different for young women about to embark on marriage. They would not be happy to spend their entire life fitting everything in around their husband's wishes and needs and she was very envious of this.

She does not give many details regarding her life before the Second World War but it is very easy to read between the lines and realise that her bouts of ill health and depression were obviously very strongly linked to a dominent and domineering husband and in-laws.
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Without a doubt this has got to be one of the most wonderful, thought provoking, emotional yet rewarding books I've ever read. There wasn't a single part of this book I didn't like, I wanted to savour every bit of it. Nella Last is someone who I came to greatly admire. She was resourceful, kind, helpful and very sensitive and thoughtful.
She always strived to do the best by her family and look after others - and despite her own nerves, depression and anxiety she did a sterling job. I felt such empathy with her when she described her anxieties, her tears and her down days - even though our experiences are poles and decades apart - nothing really changes in the human psyche.
I loved her vivid descriptions of the food she cooked, how she scrimped and saved and put by and still managed to create all these nourishing meals so that her husband and her sons didn't go hungry. How she found time to do all she did is a mystery, but she did it and it was people like her that kept our country going.
I'm really sorry to have finished the book and not have any more of it to read such was the quality of the writing. I felt as though I knew all the family, and was party to so many secrets.
I can't really find enough superlatives to describe it - a required read for anyone interested in history or anything to do with the Wars. Nella's beautifully honed prose is a delight to read, and something that Victoria Wood also captured beautifully in her reworking of the diary for TV.
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Format: Paperback
In a time when families were being ripped apart, friends and their children were being killed and you didn't know what the future would bring Nella Last detailed every emotional day. My heart went out to her and women like her, who must have wondered what was happening to the world. Apart from detailing everything from recipes, shopping lists and her work at the centre and shop, it tells us of her hopes for future generations, how her heart goes out to other nationalities including the german mothers who were loosing their sons too. She has a modern mind, quite the opposite of what you would think of a 50 year old woman in the early 1940's. Non judgemental and always looking on the bright side despite her own personal battle with nerves and a domineering husband.

She is an inspiration to modern women, how well would we cope in the same austerity and daily horror?
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What a truly amazing book, I was transfixed from start to finish. I feel I have actually got to know Nella through the book and would absolutely love to have read more of her diary and it is a tragedy that it was lost. She writes so well with such rich prose and descritions and yet does not seem to think that she has any literary talent at all!

I felt so much for her, she was such a caged bird who longed to see so much more, I would have loved to know if she ever made it to Australia to see Cliff. I was saddened when I read that she had slipped into senility at the end but she was so highly strung in some ways I suppose it was always a danger.

She is an inspiration, a true embodiment of the Blitz spirit and it was through her and others like her that the war was won. She is rarely judgemental and always thinks of the mothers and the boys separated by war.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, it has made me think about things in lots of different ways - ie my place in society at as thirty something woman today and how much the sexual revolution changed things. Brilliant - absolutely brilliant.
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