Friday, October 24, 2008
Our longest days : A people's history of the Second World War by Sandra Koa Wing. London : Profile Books, 2008.
I found this to be somewhat disappointing - I'd read Nella Last's War and enjoyed that book, so was hoping for something similar. Mass observation can provide a fascinating sidelight on the difficulties of peoples lives, and how even the 'trivial' changes that war forces on the population can have far-reaching effects and I would like to have seen more of this sort of detail, particularly towards the end where there seemed to be mainly comment on the progress of the war and peace.
One of the problems with this particular book is that there are a fair number of diarists, some only appearing at various times during the period (the diaries are arranged chronologically), so, at least initially, it can difficult to get a sense of whose perspective you are experiencing events through. I'd suggest reading the biographies (which are very brief) before getting into the diaries properly.
As I got further into the book, I did find myself 'connecting' with one or two particular diarists and reading those were much more enjoyable. As is mentioned in the introduction, the diarists tended to come from a particular class and political leanings, so there are still many stories untold.