Nella Last in the 1950's

Nella Last in the 1950's

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'I can never understand how the scribbles of such an ordinary person ...can possibly have value.' So wrote Nella Last in her diary on 2 September 1949. Sixty years on, tens of thousands of people have read and enjoyed the first two volumes of her uniquely detailed and moving diaries, written during World War II and its aftermath as part of the Mass Observation project, and the basis for BAFTA-winning drama Housewife 49 starring Victoria Wood (with a follow-up under discussion). This third compelling volume sees Nella, now in her sixties, writing of what ordinary people felt during those years of growing prosperity in a modernising Britain. Her diary offers a detailed, moving and humorous narrative of daily life at a time that shaped the society we live in today. It is an account that's full of surprises as we learn more about her relationship with 'my husband' (never 'Will') and her fears of nuclear war. Outwardly Nella's life was commonplace; but behind this mask were a penetrating mind and a lively pen. As David Kynaston said on Radio 4, she 'will come to be seen as one of the major twentieth century English diarists.'

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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 22mm | 240.4g
  • Profile Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations, maps
  • 1846683505
  • 9781846683503
  • 63,093

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Review quote

Unhappily married, and frustrated by the tedium of domestic captivity, she recorded with exceptional honesty her reactions to privation, bombing, fear and dreary monotony, speaking for millions to whom the war denied any heroic role. Among the most striking passages is that which describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945: she greeted the news not with exultation at allied victory, but with revulsion about the event's significance for mankind. -- Max Hastings Observer A vivid and characteristically distinctive account of those uncertain years poised between austerity and affluence. It confirms Nella Last's status as one of the major twentieth-century English diarists. -- David Kynaston It's wonderful to be back in Nella's world again. Such emotional candour, so many entertaining little personal battles. Unquestionably one of the great British diaries of the mid-20th century. -- Simon Garfield Nella Last's diaries give a fascinating and detailed account of life in the early 1950s. The prose is such a delight to read - lively, entertaining, observational and vividly realised -- Gervase Phinn, author of Road to the Dales A must-read Yours Diary of a Desperate Housewife: A fascinating record of the "ordinary" life of a Lancashire housewife... [she has] a marvellous gift for fining pleasure in small things. She had a poet's eye for landscape... She is funny too and sharply comic... Whatever her mood, Nella Last has the quality shared by all great diarists: of making her readers feel that however vast the differences between her life and ours, they are easily outweighed by the shared experiences of love and loss, disappointment and hope, that she describes with such artless humanity. -- Jane Shilling Daily Mail This third compelling volume of f her detailed diaries offers a fascinating narrative of daily life in Britain during the early Fifties -- Charlotte Vowden Daily Express Nella was one of the most prolific and lively contributors to Mass Observation... offers vivid insight into the straitened circumstances of post-war provincial life... A writer of warmth and sensibility, Nella's reflections went well beyond the Mass Observation remit. What we get is not only a historical document, but a self-knowing portrait of a woman whose cheerful exterior was often at odds with the "hollow shell" she felt herself to be inside. -- Emma Hagestadt The Lady Last's self-awareness and clear prose help us understand the attitudes and experiences of real, complex members of the public. -- Alastair Mabbott Glasgow Herald Delightful... this fascinating document shows how change was felt by ordinary people. Detailed and totally absorbing. Saga An evocative record of post-war provincial life... rich in personal insight... A writer of warmth and sensibility... What we get is not only a historical document, bur a self-knowing woman whose cheerful exterior was often at odds with the "hollow shell" she felt herself to be inside. -- Emma Hagestadt Independent History Books of the Year: A poignant reminder of the pleasures of micro-history... perceptive. -- Lisa Hilton Independent on Sunday

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About Robert Malcolmson

Patricia and Robert Malcolmson are social historians with a special interest in Mass Observation. They have edited several MO Diaries, including Nella Last's Peace (2008) and Nella Last in the 1950s (2010), and are currently writing a social history of the wartime Women's Voluntary Services. They live in Nelson, British Columbia.

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