Nella Last's War

Nella Last's War

The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49

Book - 2006
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In September 1939, housewife and mother Nella Last began a diary whose entries, in their regularity, length and quality, have created a record of the Second World War which is powerful, fascinating and unique. When war broke out, Nella's younger son joined the army while the rest of the family tried to adapt to civilian life. Writing each day for the "Mass Observation" project, Nella, a middle-aged housewife from the bombed town of Barrow, shows what people really felt during this time. This was the period in which she turned 50, saw her children leave home, and reviewed her life and her marriage - which she eventually compares to slavery. Her growing confidence as a result of her war work makes this a moving (though often comic) testimony, which, covering sex, death and fear of invasion, provides a new, unglamorised, female perspective on the war years.'Next to being a mother, I'd have loved to write books.' Oct 8, 1939
Publisher: London : Profile Books, 2006.
ISBN: 9781846680007
Branch Call Number: 941. 084 LAS L
Characteristics: vii, 311 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map, ports. ; 20 cm.
Additional Contributors: Broad, Richard 1928-
Fleming, Suzie


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Aug 30, 2013

The Mass Observation Project, begun in 1939, was meant to gather thoughts, feelings, and impressions of ordinary British citizens on their lives and on the coming war. Thousands participated and the archives of diaries provide a treasure-trove of information about ordinary life and ordinary people; how they lived and how they reacted to the events of that time, and later up to the 1960's. This book organizes information from one woman's diary. Nella Last was an obedient housewife and mother at the beginning of the war, but by the end became a competent, independent woman. She had always deferred to her husband who was very possessive and sheltering and unthinkingly demanding of her. She adored her two sons and lavished them with all her love and attention. At first hesitant but then eagerly, she joined in the work of the Women's volunteer Service, grew in confidence and discovered a talent for organization. War changes a lot of things, not the smallest being self-image. Nella represents the many thousands of women who realized that they were much more than helpmates and mothers, capable people able to work out in the world side by side with the men.
The film made from this book "Housewife, 49" was true to the diaries where again we see Nella's flowering. We also get a bit better picture of her husband and his very deeply buried feelings for what is happening around him, and for his view of his wife and family. He, too, is forced to accept a new world.

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