Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nella Last in the 1950s: The Further Diaries of Housewife, 49-Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson (editor)

Nella Last in the 1950s: The Further Diaries of Housewife, 49
Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson (editor)
Profile Books, Nov 16 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781846683503

This is a follow-up to the previous two segments (Nella Last in War and Nella Last in Peace; neither read by me) with a third diary entry by Nella Last in Mass Observation (established in 1937 as a sociology look from within Britain at its people). The almost daily keen observations continue the remarkable detailed look at a changing British society; this time from 1950 through 1954. With WWII and peace past as the Cold War begins in earnest but seemingly far away from the isles though she fears nuclear war, Nella looks more at her self and her family than at the larger impacts on British society as she did in her first two volumes. She no longer works full time for the Women’s Volunteer Service though she still socializes with friends from her days at WVS. Her husband Will is depressed as he was forced to retire. She deals with Will alone as their sons left Barrow in Furness then in Lancashire; Arthur moves his family to Northern Ireland and Cliff is a sculptor in Australia. Thus her “You come a long way baby” lifestyle during and just after the war is greatly diminished by her caring for Will in a shipbuilding town with not a lot to do. Still using humor and self deprecating wit, she provides plenty of insight into the family life of empty nesters in early 1950s Britain. The third and apparently final entries of the Nella Last commentaries are a terrific compilation by one of the best twentieth century diarists.

Harriet Klausner

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