Saturday, August 25, 2007

Our Hidden Lives - Simon Garfield

Subtitled "The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain 1945-1948", this book presents extracts from the diaries of five contributors to the Mass Observation project that sought to capture the attitudes, desires and fears of ordinary people as an "anthropology of ourselves" during and immediately after the war. The picture of austerity Britain that emerges from these diaries is a sharp reminder of how hard life was in Britain in the immediate post-war years: we might have won the war but the nation was bankrupt and starving and the population no longer had the incentive of "pulling together to win the war" to help them through their privations.

The glimpse offered of the private lives of these five ordinary people is deeply moving: the directness and unaffectedness with which they wrote emphasises that these are real diaries of real people and the experience of following them through more than two years of their lives left me feeling close to them, involved in their concerns and very sad to leave them in mid-stream.


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