The first book to be finished in 2011 though it was very much the last read of 2010 and a chunky one too. But also absolutely fascinating and I found myself reading large sections of it in each sitting.
In common with a number of women, Vere Hodgson began to keep a diary when war started, partly to record her own impressions but also to share with members of her family abroad so that they would have news about what was happening on the Home Front. She describes it as:
a diary showing how unimportant people in London and Birmingham lived through the war years 1940-45 written in the Notting Hill area of London
Vere originally came from Birmingham but lived in London where she did welfare work for a private organisation which meant that she was exempt from the conscripted war work that caught up so many other women. Her descriptions of the impact of the Blitz are very vivid as you might expect, and her curiosity about the aftermath of some of the attacks took her on walks throughout London to see what had been damaged and what was still standing. It might seem a bit odd (if not slightly ghoulish) to go off and see where homes and business premises had been destroyed, but in one way I can understand that in a period where rumours about what was gone and what was still standing abounded, going to find out for yourself (if you could) was probably an effective coping mechanism.
Some of the descriptions of her walks are hugely interesting to me; I spend quite a lot of time on business in the area around London Wall, Cheapside and St Paul’s where so much was destroyed, and I work close to Holborn which was again badly hit, so (with a little bit of thinking) it is quite possible to imagine myself standing alongside her.
As the preface says, she can be a tiny bit pompous on occasion and her uncritical admiration of Churchill and De Gaulle jars a little, bit but her descriptions of rationing and fire-watching, trying to travel to visit her family in Birmingham, the sheltering from the bombs, the lack of sleep but also the camaraderie with her friends and colleagues gives a really rounded picture of what it was like during those five years, and is well-worth reading.
Part of the TBR challenge – this book has been on my shelves since I received it as a Christmas present in 2004.