Top positive review
119 people found this helpful
on 18 April 2005
As a history enthusiast, I'm always very interested to find out about the social dimension which is all too often overlooked in favour of purely political perspectives on the past. This book, I am pleased to say bridges the gap magnificently.
Its basis lies in the Mass Observation excercises carried out in the 1930s and 1940s in which volunteers were asked to fill in diaries detailing their daily lives. It was hoped that this would give an insight into the lives of ordinary people to readers in the future.
With this in mind, the editor of this book has taken 5 respondents and published extracts from their diaries dating from 1945 to 1951, an often overlooked period in UK history. The Respondents chosen are widely varied, from B. Charles a gay antiques dealer from Edinburgh to Edie Rutherford, a socialist housewife from Derby through to Herbert Brush, a pensioner form South London.
The diaries outline all kinds of detail we don't normally associate with history books for example, the best types of household cleaning products and the horrors of continued spam dinners! More importantly they give truly fascinating insight into the issues of the day (Labour Government, continued rationing, the outcome of Nuremburg etc...) with heart and from personal perspectives.
I found this aspect intriguing. In retrospect the Attlee government is roundly deified for creatinf the NHS and the Welfare State. However, from these diaries it is obvious that the far sightedness of that adminsitration was not shared by the public at large. Indeed the NHS is looked upon by many as abhorrent!
Social attitudes to race at the time are also highlighted. Attitudes to Jews are not at all favourable. Indeed, the husband of Edie Rutherford's one regret was that the "Nuremberg thugs were stopped before they finished the job" Heavy Stuff!
However, the book's highlight for me are the entries of Herbert Brush. A slight eccentric, his entries are always amusing and often quite surreal. His Poetry is often hilarious and i found myself giggling at his fruitless attempts to find a book giving prime numbers from one to five million!
In all, a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary folk at a period in history which is often forgotten.