Monday, 19 October 2009

Nella Last's Peace by Nella Last

(edited by Patricia & Robert Malcolmson) DATE PUBLISHED: 2008 DATE READ: October 2009 NOTES: This is an edited version of Nella’s diary entries submitted to the Mass Observation organisation from 1945 to 1948. They recount her time spent as a housewife in Barrow. Although some major world or national events are mentioned her writing is more focussed on her family, her neighbours and her friends. She writes honestly and openly and is very critical of lots of people. Her husband was obviously an extremely difficult man to live with and she certainly lets rip about him in her diary (and sometimes in real life). The book is quite repetitive – a reflection of her life which was (to us) rather tedious – a constant round of shopping, cooking and household duties with very little social life. I must take issue with the cover of this book. It shows and street of small terraced houses, a woman scrubbing the pavement and another with a babe in arms. It very much evokes the “grimness” of the lives of the Northern working class. But Nella was in no way “typical”. Her husband ran his own business and she had a small private income from her parents. They had a modern semi-detached house in a good area with a garage and a car. And they even had central heating! She also sent all her washing to the laundry each week and had a woman come in to clean. But she nonetheless gives us a good picture of life at the time – the rationing, the uncertainty about the future and the general greyness that pervaded most people’s lives. Few of us today would choose to swap places!

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