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Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49 Paperback – 7 Oct 2010
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Unhappily married, and frustrated by the tedium of domestic captivity, she recorded with exceptional honesty her reactions to privation, bombing, fear and dreary monotony, speaking for millions to whom the war denied any heroic role. Among the most striking passages is that which describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945: she greeted the news not with exultation at allied victory, but with revulsion about the event's significance for mankind. (Max Hastings Observer 2010-03-14)
A vivid and characteristically distinctive account of those uncertain years poised between austerity and affluence. It confirms Nella Last's status as one of the major twentieth-century English diarists. (David Kynaston)
It's wonderful to be back in Nella's world again. Such emotional candour, so many entertaining little personal battles. Unquestionably one of the great British diaries of the mid-20th century. (Simon Garfield)
Nella Last's diaries give a fascinating and detailed account of life in the early 1950s. The prose is such a delight to read - lively, entertaining, observational and vividly realised (Gervase Phinn, author of Road to the Dales)
A must-read (Yours 2010-10-05)
Diary of a Desperate Housewife: A fascinating record of the "ordinary" life of a Lancashire housewife... [she has] a marvellous gift for fining pleasure in small things. She had a poet's eye for landscape... She is funny too and sharply comic... Whatever her mood, Nella Last has the quality shared by all great diarists: of making her readers feel that however vast the differences between her life and ours, they are easily outweighed by the shared experiences of love and loss, disappointment and hope, that she describes with such artless humanity. (Jane Shilling Daily Mail 2010-10-15)
This third compelling volume of f her detailed diaries offers a fascinating narrative of daily life in Britain during the early Fifties (Charlotte Vowden Daily Express 2010-10-15)
Nella was one of the most prolific and lively contributors to Mass Observation... offers vivid insight into the straitened circumstances of post-war provincial life... A writer of warmth and sensibility, Nella's reflections went well beyond the Mass Observation remit. What we get is not only a historical document, but a self-knowing portrait of a woman whose cheerful exterior was often at odds with the "hollow shell" she felt herself to be inside. (Emma Hagestadt The Lady 2010-10-12)
Last's self-awareness and clear prose help us understand the attitudes and experiences of real, complex members of the public. (Alastair Mabbott Glasgow Herald 2010-10-30)
Delightful... this fascinating document shows how change was felt by ordinary people. Detailed and totally absorbing. (Saga 2010-11-01)
An evocative record of post-war provincial life... rich in personal insight... A writer of warmth and sensibility... What we get is not only a historical document, bur a self-knowing woman whose cheerful exterior was often at odds with the "hollow shell" she felt herself to be inside. (Emma Hagestadt Independent 2010-12-10)
History Books of the Year: A poignant reminder of the pleasures of micro-history... perceptive. (Lisa Hilton Independent on Sunday 2010-12-12)
Picking up where bestseller Nella Last's Peace left off, this fascinating diary from the 1950s delves into the thoughts, feelings and daily life of housewife, mother and skilful narrator Nella Last, as well as that of her family, friends and neighbours.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
It would be a good idea for anyone reading this to read Nella Last's Peace first. In that we see how the bright, lively but highly introspective and astute Nella becomes more worn down by the demands of family life. Turning straight to this after 'Nella Last's War' would come as quite a shock. Nella still has a wise and incredibly observant eye, but many of her comments on friends and neighbours have a bitter, caustic edge missing from the war diaries.
Perhaps it's no wonder. It's very clear from these just how difficult life with her highly strung husband must have been. The shortages of everyday items that characterised life in the first two diaries have not disappeared. Life was very difficult - and Nella doesn't pull her punches, making this a fascinating, valuable resource for social historians and all those interested in times gone by.
We also observe Cliff Last's fledgling career as a successful sculptor in Australia - and there is an interesting account of a trip home by him. Life with Cliff around was seldom boring, but he was also able to make clear home truths to his father in a way that made him listen.
Nella is still able to gain joy from simple pleasures such as her handicrafts, the company of her pets and trips out to her beloved Lakes. Her grandchildren appear infrequently but the pleasure that the two boys give Nella is very clear - there are also trips to London involved with this, as her son Arthur and his wife Edith relocated from Northern Ireland.
There are also a few new photographs, these and some additional information reveal that Nella did get another dog after 'Old Sol', despite her assurance that 'He shall always be my dog'... I'd often thought of these words and felt it was a shame to deny herself the pleasure of a dog's company, not to mention the interest it would give her husband. We only meet 'Garry' briefly but I hope he did bring her some joy.
There's a glossary that will prove useful to overseas readers, though it was a sharp shock to see terms such as 'Fynnon Salts' and 'Phyllosan' explained - it's only now I realise that these childhood commonplaces disappeared some time ago.
This is a book to keep and to read again, both for the quality of the writing and for some, the wonderful evocations of times past. Also, for all those who infer that despite privations, it was better back then- read this, and decide, was it really?
I find it very easy to relate to Nella and her problems; but also to her joy in the natural world, her fondness of her cats, and her dealings with friends and neighbours. We also experience through her the concerns of wider events of the time such as the development of nuclear weapons, and the devastating effects of polio.
This is social history through the eyes of someone fairly ordinary but with an eye for detail and a gift for writing. Superb.
It really is 'more of the same' but this is no bad thing, Nella wrote in such a lovely style with flowing prose that really captivates interest. We're now in the years following World War Two - Nella and Will are dealing with advancing age and ill health (reading about Will's mental struggles and how Nella, herself troubled with anxiety and depression copes with him shows you that really nothing changes from one decade to another) There are some very poignant entries which really made me feel very emotional indeed.
It's also so interesting to read about how Nella managed the household, the meals she cooked and the things she did on a day to day basis to keep their home going.
I really do hope there are more books planned, Nella was one of the most prolific contributors to the Mass Observation programme, so I'm keeping everything crossed more volumes are on their way soon!
The war has become a fond memory of camaraderie and purpose for Nella Last as she begins to struggle with her own physical decline, and her husband's increasingly debilitating anxiety and depression.
I sadly sensed that Nella was begining to give way to her husband's moribund personality again, now that the stimulation and urgency of war had passed and both her sons were living away from home. This makes up the dramatic undercurrent to her usual lively entries detailing meal preparations and local gossip, economic conditions and world events.
Another vivid picture of times gone for ever, journalled by a woman who wrote almost nightly for 25 years, yet had no idea of the mass readership she would eventually claim.