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Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 Paperback – 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Nella Last Diaries Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I adored [it]. An extraordinary glimpse into the heart of an 'ordinary' woman, Nella Last's day-to-day account of her war is spirited, poignant and utterly compelling."—Lucy Moore

"A fantastic story…This is not the war of the newsreels—it's about tiny domestic difficulties, lumpy custard…"—Victoria Wood

"I relished it…her personality is so powerful…There are so many things to admire about her."—Margaret ForsterSunday Times UK

"Anyone who has the least curiosity about what it was like to live through the Second World War should read this" -New Statesman

"The whole post-war women's movement anticipated and rehearsed by a solitary pioneer on the most unlikely of stages"—Guardian UK

About the Author

Nella Last kept a diary throughout WWII, under the auspices of the Mass Observation Archive. Her record of events offers a unique insight into one woman's war - on the Home Front. She died in 1968. Richard Broad is a filmmaker; he lives in Ireland. Suzie Fleming is a feminist writer and speaker; she lives in Cornwall.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668000X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680007
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nella Last was a participant in the Mass Observation project. Her diary of the life of an "ordinary" British housewife during the war was open, honest, and reflective. I loved watching her grow from a submissive housewife to an independent, confident woman who found she could remain loving and caring without being a doormat. I found many of the mundane details of dealing with rationing, running a canteen, preparing for bombing, etc. on the homefront to be fascinating. I would have like to have known her, but at least I had the opportunity through this book.
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Format: Paperback
Nella Last took part in the Mass Observation Project during World War II, a groundbreaking program in which British people were asked to maintain diaries discussing their daily experiences. She wrote diligently for more than thirty eventful years. Nella Last's War concentrates on 1939-1945 and in doing so focuses on a woman blossoming, starting at the age of 49, into an independent, free-thinking spirit.

The War offered Nella a chance to do useful work that made a difference in the world; the closing pages of the book show a bit of melancholy as her world threatens to become smaller again, limited to knitting in the living room and only going where her husband wishes to go. Watching Nella deal with her newfound independence and, delightfully, putting her foot down with regard to her personal space and happiness, is interesting in the extreme. I was also fascinated at how she was able to make do with so little, and how impatient she became with those who whined about their "problems" while others lost homes, family members and lives.

Nella is funny, intelligent, resourceful and kind. She would have been a marvelous friend to turn to in times both good and bad. Thanks to the evocative way in which she writes about her home, her family and her beloved Lake District, I feel as if I were there with her. She often says "I am not smart." I fervently disagree - she may not have realized her own intelligence, but it shows bright and beautiful on every page of Nella Last's War.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had been wanting to read this book for two years, having seen Lynne Hymers reading it in "The 1940s House." It was definitely worth the wait--I devoured this book like a good meal. Nella Last was a very resourceful, imaginative woman. I very much enjoyed her candid honesty, and the way she kept her sense of humor, even while missing her boys and dealing with her husband. I'm very much looking forward to the second volume of her diary.
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Fascinating diary excerpts from a lower middle class, middle-aged housewife living in northern England during WWII. Nella Last describes her life in detail--her worries about her 20-something sons, her volunteer work, her attempts to continue her life during air raids, shortages of food and other essentials, sadness at loss. She is a perceptive observer of events, social nuance, and human quirks. The only major drawback is the editing, which fails to provide much information about Nella Last herself, i.e. her own social milieu, her educational background, and her pre-war activities.
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Format: Paperback
This review is for the audio/audible version. This is an excellent autobiographical piece of history and women's studies. Nella Last's story is a deeply personal account of one ordinary, middle-aged woman who lived during World War II. She has really great insights into how the war affected individuals, especially women, on the home-front. I found that women during that time were not so terribly different than women in our own time, and that Nella chafed at many of the same things my friends and I have chafed at. Her insights into the social changes brought on by the war are pertinent to issues we face today; many issues find their root in World War's affect on the family and social structure. The domestic aspects of her life were especially interesting, and I was able to understand how rationing impacted daily life. Loved hearing her bits on the foods she made and the crafts she created. Nella, even when I disagreed with her, was just so very likable, and I felt like I could understand her by the time the book was done. She was is very insightful in her observations, and a much more modern thinker than I would have expected. Her comments on her marriage were the most difficult to listen to, not because she was not probably accurate, but I thought there were times she was a bit hard on her husband, given his nature. However, I really could empathize with a lot of what she shared. The reader of the book did a fabulous job in bringing Nella to life, and I was sorry to see the book end....so I am now listening to the sequel and have bought the third book in the series for my Kindle. I was sorry Audible did not have it. Honestly, why isn't this a mandatory book for high school and college history classes? We miss so very much when we do not hear from women, and we should all be better acquainted with the Mass-Observation collection and personal journals from every era.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much. Nella is a talented diarist and an endearing person. Because she knew people would be reading her account, she took care to make it understandable to the reader, unlike some diaries. She remained upbeat and went to great lengths to keep things cheerful for her husband and family. We get a special look into the everyday life of a housewife during wartime. Not only does she manage her household in spite of rationing and shortages, she does it all on a tiny budget and still manages to keep money aside to help with the war effort. In spite of some health problems, Nella filled her days with war work, volunteering at a canteen, knitting and sewing for refugees, and running a thrift shop to raise money for various causes.
The book follows her all the way through the war, and I'm looking forward to the next book that continues her story through the fifties.
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