War Rooms – and books

Silence from Northernreader for the last few days; have been down to London! A post Christmas break was called for, and the ultra organised Husband had booked train tickets and Travelodge in October. While not the height of luxury, it was definitely central. Buses and taxis got us around at varying levels of cost, and we discovered some interesting eateries/pubs. We enjoyed “Giraffe”, a chain of family friendly cafes which were very friendly.

Our main destination was “The Cabinet War Rooms”, a preserved series of rooms used by Churchill and his senior staff during World War Two. Husband had been there a few years ago, but a Churchill Museum has been added since then.  It is a fascinating place; full of the atmosphere of just what it was like to work (and nearly live) under London during the Blitz. Many recordings were made of the staff who worked there, even the bits and pieces of notes, abandoned sugar rations and phones were still on display. There were maps pinned up, phones all around , the beds made up ready for their on call occupants. The Churchill museum attached to the building is absorbing, with working interactive displays, recordings of speeches, photos, letters (including correspondence with Unity Mitford over the annexing of Austria). All very interesting stuff. Thankfully there is a very accessible cafe part of the way round.  It is a very good museum, for anyone with even a passing interest in twentieth century history.

Some book blogs I read have long mentioned the virtues of Virago Modern Classics. They are dominated by books written by women. Some of them are worthy, some of them (of the limited number that I have read) fascinating; covering the same sort of ground as Persephone books, with some overlap in authors.

One of their best known titles is Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther.

This probably would come under the title of a worthy book; not a great emphasis on the war (though there are chapters on getting the family’s allocation of gas masks and some letters on the blackout etc) It records family life of the time; the sort of family that employs staff and has two houses. Perhaps its significance is in its propaganda value as the basis for the film Mrs Miniver which is widely credited for altering public opinion in America regarding entering the Second World War. I have the dvd of the film which won awards so I may see a different side of this book.

I’m also half way through The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

This is an excellent book, on a small town in America and the height of the London blitz. It is a sad, even harrowing book. It is, nevertheless excellent thus far. It is everywhere at the moment and very well worth picking up and trying. No lending it out until I’ve finished!

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