Monday, 30 May 2011

Nella Last's Peace

Just in time to meet my three-books-a-month deadline, I finished my third book for May.

As I previously mentioned, Nella Last's Peace had been on my shelf for the past two years and although I'd read the first chapter a number of times, I'd never gone beyond it.

The book contains Nella's diaries of life in an austere post-war Barrow. She eloquently describes the increasing rations and the adjustments to life after the wartime years, particularly her frustration at feeling like she no longer has a real purpose after the wartime causes she helped with are wound down. Nella tells the stories of her neighbours' and family's lives in an interesting and often highly amusing manner. Although you get the impression that Nella thought she was not a snob or as gossipy as the other women she knew, you occasionally get the feeling that she likes to hear the tittle-tattle and feels overly proud and almost boastful when others rely on her for capabilities and common sense.

I did enjoy reading the book, especially as it gives real insight into how difficult life in post-war Britain was. So often I have read books which finish in the summer of 1945 which give the idea that  life immediately returned to pre-war normality. Nella also wrote with great precision, focus on detail and seems to have tried to always create a balanced account of each with both facts and feelings.

However, I did feel that the book was rather overlong and could have been about 50-80 pages shorter. The constant drudge did become wearing and I was longing for something happy and exciting to happen. Yet, possibly this is why this collection of diaries is so good. It was not written to be widely read but as a part of a sociological exercise. Indeed, we write our blogs with the knowledge that they are to be read and therefore generally omit the boring things from every day life. I know I would not have the patience to ever read about my daily routine again and again!

Nevertheless, this was a good read and I highly recommend it if you want to get a reliable insight into life in Britain during the late 1940s. It is possibly not as good as Nella Last's War (which Victoria Wood turned into the interesting drama Housewife 49) but this is merely because it lacks some of the action and focus around key wartime events. Another book has been published containing Nella's diaries from the 1950s. I won't rush to read it but if I do see it in the library I may borrow it to see if her life regained any of it's colour and excitement.

For June's three reads, I'll now have a two-day head start. I'm going to read Penelope Lively's Family Album, another title which has been on my bookshelf for a while. I shall let you know on Wednesday what the other two books for June will be.


  1. kudos for reaching your goal! I have a stack of books waiting for my attention that just keeps getting higher... sigh.

  2. You did really well to reach your target. My reading output is pathetic these days.

  3. well done for finishing all 3 books. I'm impressed with your 25 pages a day target, I'm lucky if I manage 3 before I fall asleep.