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These Wonderful Rumours!: A Young Schoolteacher's Wartime Diaries 1939-1945 Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012
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I grew to love every single detail. This is what it really must have been like to live through the war in Derbyshire on a teacher's salary with no car. I was fascinated (Ysenda Maxtone Graham Spectator)
May Smith is simply a joy, a bright spark in dark times (Iain Finlayson The Times)
Well written, witty and absorbing, Smith's chronicles give us an insight into the life and impact of the war in a small English village (Nilima Marshall Yorkshire Evening Post) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
'The People's War' comes to life in this wonderful diary of life on the Home Front during World War TwoSee all Product description
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Edited by her son (for whom I thank profusely for making these wonderfully entertaining, witty and fascinating diaries available) May's story begins in December 1938 and ends in 1945. May was a teacher during a time when her class size grew and grew - although miserably her holidays were shortened. She copes with evacuees and often a class twice the size of our national average. Her sarcastic wit (school is described as a "loathesome place") does not allow for too much sentimentality; but it is fair to say that teaching has its plus points if she is threatened with Fire Watching or Munitions work. May often uses capital letters to emphasise words and this works very well, somehow giving May a voice within the text.
Much of her entries relate to the two current men in her life - plus the clergyman who jilted her in the mid 1930's. The two beau's in question are 'Dougie Dear', who lives a fair distance away (you feel thankfully for May!) but provides fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs at intervals throughout the book. There is also the 'Faithful' (sometimes 'Faithless'!) Fred, who accompanies May to the 'flicks', tennis (where he has a rival in a married man May certainly does not encourage) and dances. As well as work, May's preoccupations lie with friends, tennis, English lectures, her love of the movies, books and theatre. She is lively, fun and delightfully brave. When told that invasion is imminent, she finishes outstanding correspondence, in order to be invaded with "a clear conscience". Staunchly patriotic, she nevertheless jokes about German bombers carrying home ariel photographs of Swadlincotes "impregnable defences" and when told that Hitler is planning to drop thousands of men over England in parachutes, she exclaims, "How awful!" and then finishes, "for them, I mean." In other words, despite being bombed on a daily/nightly basis at one point, hearing the "shattering news" of clothes being rationed and having her life turned upside down, she retains both her humour and her humanity.
This is an absolutely delightful account of Britain in wartime which I cannot praise highly enough. Filled with daily accounts of life carrying on regardless, war rumours (all treated with excellent scepticism - you feel Goebbels would have had a hard time convincing May of absolutely anything she was not sure about herself) and 'making do and mend', this is really entertaining, funny and sometimes moving. May often says she doesn't want to hear about the suffering going on around her, but she obviously feels things deeply and cares for her family, friends and neighbours. If you enjoy this, and I am sure you will, you might also like the fictional war diaries Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 (The Bloomsbury Group) and Henrietta Sees It Through (The Bloomsbury Group). Lastly, I read the kindle edition of this book and it contained illustrations.
What came across to me was just how resigned people got to the war which is sad in itself .
It has made me very interested in May and her family though . I'd love to know about her marriage to Frederick and I really hope she found true happiness .
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