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More time with Nella in the early 50s.
on 28 June 2012
The time span covered by this book is relatively short - just a few years in the early 1950s. Not the entire decade, although Nella did write diaries to cover this period.
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?