Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49' Paperback – 16 Nov 2006
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
She is an inspiration to modern women, how well would we cope in the same austerity and daily horror?
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating insight into an everyday wartime life. Having loved Victoria Wood's Housewife, 49, I was surprised how different the tone of the original material is. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Amber Nectar
Great book - loved it - fantastic insight into life during the war.Published 3 months ago by Sylvie Richardson
Nella Last has been a hero of mine for many years. Nella personified the 'true grit' of a woman during the war. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Anne
Don't expect the book to mirror the t.v. programme because it doesn't. It is still a good read.Published 5 months ago by Vanilla204
I enjoyed the edited diary and found it unexpectedly gripping. I had to read it as it was a book group choice.Published 6 months ago by Sheila van Moyland
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