In Time of War – 70 years on

If you have watched any television over the last few weeks, picked up a paper, or turned on the radio, you will of course know that it is seventy years since the Battle of  Britain and the start of World War Two in all its ferocity. There have been programmes examining many many aspects of the War, including the role played by women pilots, mentioning Jackie Corchan, the subject of one of the plays I saw in Edinburgh.  I am enjoying Private Battles by Simon Garfield and Mass Observation among other books on the War; it’s a collection of four diaries, each commenting on the Home Front. Mass Observation, the collection of people’s thoughts and everyday experiences, have produced many really excellent books. Sadly I do not fit the requirements for volunteers at the moment, but maybe some day. Until then, my War views will be shaped by family history and Dads Army, now edited by my friend Charles. If you can’t be famous yourself ….

Henrietta’s War and Henrietta sees it Through by Joyce Dennys are two of the books in the Bloomsbury Group series of reprints. They are in the form of letters written by a doctor’s wife in a Devonshire village during the War. They have the ring of truth, the spontaneous nature of being written in the first person (which works in this case) and are remarkable in their honesty. The writer admits to real fear, discomfort and the frustrations of not doing ‘real war work’ because she is keeping her husband going in the fading days of pre NHS, one doctor practices. The books are also tremendously funny, with the local characters, the incomers and everyone else trying to get along in unique circumstances. The Drama Society, jam making without sugar, wartime romance, class distinctions are all dealt with in such a way that the author’s own drawings, as above, just finish the effect. Yes, there was one point when Son 2 removed one of the books because I was crying, but that’s because of the frighteningly realistic chord it struck about one’s daughter being a nurse, when she doesn’t seem old enough to be more than a child herself. Two books which can reduce me to laughter and tears are well worth getting hold of and reading. I am confused about how frequently the Bloomsbury group are going to bring out these good reprints (there are ten so far), but I have bought a few and look forward to more. I’m going to dash off a quick email to the publishers to ask…Just watch this space…

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