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A book about rationing/account of WW2 at home?

(26 Posts)
ritzbiscuits Thu 19-Mar-20 13:49:24

Given the strange times we're in, I thought I'd like to read a book about a real life account of the war at home/rationing etc? I hope it might make me feel grateful for what we have (for now!)

Thought about Nella's Last War which I'm yet to read.

Any other suggestions?

OP’s posts: |
Sadik Thu 19-Mar-20 18:46:09

Not exactly real life, but you might like The Provincial Lady in Wartime.

YounghillKang Thu 19-Mar-20 19:24:17

You might try fiction like Mrs Miniver by Jan Anstruther or Monica Dickens’s Mariana she also wrote non-fiction would recommend One Pair of Feet about training as a nurse in WW2, or look at non-fiction like Those Wonderful Rumours: a young schoolteacher’s wartime diaries, Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain; also have a look at this list on Goodreads:

I’ve just started A woman in the polar night about living in the remote Artic with limited supplies, and recommended Laura Ingalls’s Wilder’s books on another thread, as all about living on limited supplies, and one in particular about being cut-off The Long Winter.

IkeaSlave Thu 19-Mar-20 19:25:51

I was just reading Nella Last's War. Weird coincidence. It's very good

TheMemoryLingers Thu 19-Mar-20 19:29:40

The View from the Corner Shop by Kathleen Hey - it's a memoir about running a grocer's shop during WW2 rationing,

Bookymcbook Thu 19-Mar-20 19:31:03

Few Eggs and No Oranges by Vere Hodgson is an account of the war, particularly the Blitz in London, that focuses a lot on rationing and the issues in getting food and other supplies. I particularly liked it because it is a contemporaneous 'diary' so the author has no idea, when she is writing, about how the war will turn out. It's a great book.

TheMemoryLingers Thu 19-Mar-20 21:17:17

I've been talking a lot to my mum about her memories of rationing - she was born during the war, but of course rationing continued for many years afterwards. I'm glad we still have this resource to draw on.

ritzbiscuits Fri 20-Mar-20 13:43:22

Thanks kindly everyone, I'll look these up now.

OP’s posts: |
Nowisthemonthofmaying Fri 20-Mar-20 13:45:17

I was going to say Few Eggs and No Oranges! I'm reading it at the moment, really helps to put things in perspective. It's published by Persephone and they have lots of other books from the same period which are worth a look.

AdaColeman Fri 20-Mar-20 13:53:23

Yet another vote for Few Eggs and No Oranges, the narrator really draws you into her daily life.

ritzbiscuits Fri 20-Mar-20 14:37:46

@Nowisthemonthofmaying Thanks, I have the one written by the Hamburg housewife, 'On the Other Side', but am yet to read it!

OP’s posts: |
nauticant Fri 20-Mar-20 21:45:55

LIke IkeaSlave I was also going to recommend Nella Last's War. It has the benefit of being a true account of what it's like for a real person to go through an extraordinary time.

It's from the Massive Observation programme. There's more information here:

Or stick the terms mass observation into Amazon for more suggestions. There's a wealth of material.

Nowisthemonthofmaying Fri 20-Mar-20 21:48:23

@ritzbiscuits I have that one too, thanks for reminding me. Will read it again when I've finished this one (may take me a while, it's a proper doorstep!)

Imok Fri 20-Mar-20 21:57:08

Simon Garfield has written three books, using entries from the Mass Observation Project - We Are At War, Private Battles and Our Hidden Lives. This is the reading order, not the publication order. They are easily the best written books I've read on the subject.

HildaTablet Thu 02-Apr-20 20:47:52

How We Lived Then by Norman Longmate is a fascinating non-fiction book about life in wartime, and draws heavily on the Mass Observation project (which is still going to this day, by the way). I absolutely loved this book when I read it years ago - thanks for making me think about it, OP, I'm going to dig it out for a re-read!

ritzbiscuits Thu 02-Apr-20 22:32:43

I don't seem destined to read one of these books. Few Eggs and No Oranges unluckily didn't dispatch from Persephone before lockdown. Then ordered Nella's Last War which got dispatched by Amazon and then lost in transit!


Will look at other recommendations, but Persephone will hopefully arrive as soon as they can get back to the shop.

OP’s posts: |
HarlanWillYouStopNamingNuts Fri 03-Apr-20 13:03:14

Not food related, but I enjoyed Fashion on the Ration. Not the best written but it's a fun read. It's really interesting to read about the effect of fashion on morale (and relevant to our current situation, though obviously we are much, much better off). My favourite snippet is about Barbara Cartland, who collected a wardrobe of wedding dresses to loan out to servicewomen who otherwise would have had to get married in uniform. It put her in a whole different light for me, as I'd only ever pictured her lying on a chaise longue dictating identikit romance novels (I went through a phase in my teens of reading two or three a week).

highlandcoo Fri 03-Apr-20 16:02:51

OP have a look at Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. The story of a young teacher during the Blitz, looking after the children who - shockingly - were deemed "unacceptable" to be evacuated, whether because of disability or skin colour.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson describes the struggle of a Polish family to adapt to life, having escaped to Britain immediately after the war.

That Summer by Andrew Greig recounts the love affair between a fighter pilot and a radar operator during the Battle of Britain.

Fifthtimelucky Fri 03-Apr-20 17:04:52

Don't read Vera Brittain unless you are prepared for bawling your eyes out.

Funnily enough I am reading a first hand account of the second world war at the moment: diaries written by my mother in law who died a couple of weeks ago (not from COVID 19).

There are some really weird moments where she casually interposes references to the war into daily life what lessons she had at school and what she went to see at the cinema. She lived in an East London suburb and there are lots of references to air raids and shot down planes.

In the later diaries she was commuting into central London. The building she worked in was bombed at one point and they all had to work in the basement.

HarlanWillYouStopNamingNuts Fri 03-Apr-20 17:44:39

OP have a look atEveryone Brave is Forgivenby Chris Cleave.
Yes, this is a wonderful book, but again keep the kleenex nearby.

HerculePoirotsGreyCells Fri 03-Apr-20 17:52:02

As Imok said, Simon Garfield's trio of books are fantastic reads. They are based from the mass observation archives. Juliet Gardiner is another good social historian. Real life accounts such as Nella Last or Joyce Storey are lovely reads too.

If you enjoy the Simon Garfield books, one of the diarists is named Maggie Joy Blunt in his books but who was really called Jean Lucey Pratt. There is a book about her called A Notable Woman. Not about rationing but interesting to follow her life going forward.

RubySlippers77 Mon 06-Apr-20 22:55:16

At least one of the Helen Forrester autobiographical novels covers WW2 (*Lime Street at Two* certainly, can't remember if the previous one does too!). The series starts earlier in the 1930s and documents her family living through extreme poverty. They are slightly better off by WW2 but then of course are hit by further challenges!

lamppostdog Tue 07-Apr-20 08:05:09

Housewife 49
The lost voices series is good too for first hand accounts

graciecoffee Tue 07-Apr-20 09:33:40

Nella's Last War is a diary kept by a housewife during WW2, and it's just fascinating in terms of the detail of rationing etc. There are a few published Mass Observation diaries out there - might be comparable (although very different) to our situation now?

HildaTablet Tue 07-Apr-20 10:42:17

OP, I've just had a look on my shelves and found a copy of Mrs Milburn's Diaries: An Englishwoman's Day-to-Day Reflections 1939-1945 . She wasn't part of the Mass Observation project, she just decided to start keeping a diary during the war - it's probably pretty close to what you're after.

There's a used copy on Amazon going for £3.80!

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