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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 22 June 2005
One of the interesting facts to be found in this book is that the lives of people worsened after the end of the war with further rationing, shortages and restrictions making people fearful of the future.
The comments on crime, worsening manners, and young people amongst other things sound little different from the comments we hear today.
All in all a strangely compelling book that draws you in and keeps you reading to the end.
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on 13 November 2006
I could not put this fascinating book down . I am sorry that some readers have have found references to anti-semitism & black people offensive ( I too was taken aback st times by some of the diarists comments ) , but as I've said in my title , this is history that has not been airbrushed .

There are many parallells with modern life , such as crime , poor conditions in hospitals , etc .

I would strongly recommend this book to all those with an interest in social history & it is as well to remember that times & attitudes do change . That was then then , this is now . Not to read this this book because of offensive comments will result in missing out on an excellent selection of how ordinary people lived & thought then .
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on 17 June 2005
I think this book is absolutely amazing and can't wait for the next one to come out! To anyone interested in social hsitroy and people then this is the book for you. It provides a wonderfully intimate insight into the private thoughts of people who were still living in diffciult times and coping with rationing and prejudice that was unleashed on british society during the second world war. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone. It really grabs your interest and I couldn't put it down and have since reread it a few times. Buy it, Buy it, Buy it.
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on 9 February 2006
I loved this book. The diarists are brilliantly selected, and one's only wish is that they might have written more or that one could know more about their lives. Especially Maggie Joy Blunt I find a fascinating person. I think this book tells one that everybody is living in historical times, and the fact that you saw a particular film, had a particular meal, or overheard a conversation on the bus is living proof of that. Makes one want to record one's own life as a piece of -unheroic - history.
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on 6 January 2008
You wouldn't think that the diaries of five people commenting on shopping trips, gardening, their health and jobs could be much of page turner, but somehow this is. I have loved every sentence so far and am so dreading reaching the end, that I have just ordered the other two books in the series. I just wish that I had read them in order. I seem to have started at the end!
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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2008
I am a voracious reader of anything to do with the lives of ordinary people during and immediately after the post war period and this is an absolutely fascinating book. It feels as if you are looking over the shoulders of the people writing the diaries and these diaries (by modern standards) pull no punches. Much of what is said is both politically incorrect (and hooray for that) and especially, with the opinions about Jewish people, deeply upsetting and disturbing.

That said this compilation gives a compelling picture of what life was like in the immediate post war period, the ongoing dreariness of every day life with food rationing getting worse rather than better. The sheer difficulty of replacing the most ordinary articles, the tiresomeness of having to make do and mend and the grinding knowledge that things were not going to get better anytime soon. In the event rationing went on until 1953, eight years after the war ended!

If you want to know what life was really like for the ordinary man and woman in the street at this time, then this is the book for you, it is entertaining, amusing and as previously mentioned, occasionally upsetting, but it is always fascinating. It will give you an enthralling look into other lives in a very time and a very different Britain.
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on 23 October 2007
I really enjoyed this book, I read it over a long period but was deeply engrossed into it each time I picked it up. Perhaps it's the pure nosyness of being "allowed" to read a diary, the great interest in what was happening to people at the time, seeing the shifts in society and opinions of how "community" lives together and knowing where it was headed in the reality of what we have today. Really recommend this one.
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on 29 May 2009
I wasn't sure what to expect when I began this book. I knew it would be diary entries made by people who had contributed to the mass observation project, but I didn't know if the book would be set out in a distant informal manner.

By reading and finishing the book I can definitely say it was engaging and inspiring. The editor has arranged and selected the entries so that we follow the daily lives of a few ordinary people living in the UK from the end of the Second World War up to 1948.

What is so appealing to the reader is the way you become completely familiarised with the writers as their life unfolds and we experience their highs and lows. Some books containing diary entries don't always have this sense of familiarity with its subjects. This book does and is a valuable insight into a period not always the choice of study for many people.

I highly recommend this book to those interested/studying social sciences or to people who are genuinely intrigued by this less well known period. Don't expect pages of excitement and action, as this book contains diary entries of normal people who lived relatively normal lives.

The book is a valuable source of sociological evidence for this important period and if anything else a very pleasant and interesting read.
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on 23 January 2016
Picking this up is easy as you can read a few pages at a time or even a few diary entries at a time. The real stories during the war or hardship and how people lived, what they actually thought on paper. A fascinating read that will take you back to a time we no longer appreciate. You'll understand how your granddads and grandmothers were brought up and there's no mod-cons here
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