Few Eggs and No Oranges: A Diary Showing How Unimportant People in London and Birmingham Lived Through the War Years, 1940-1945 by Vere Hodgson

It’s quite a subtitle, but then, it’s quite a book. There are lots of books out there about the Blitz, but this one kept coming up as the one to read for a view of civilian life in London (and Birmingham) at the time. And I can see why – although there are still great, huge gaps in my knowledge of the Blitz and this book didn’t necessary help to fill them, I think I got a really good day-to-day view of what it was like. I mean, not that reading a book means I know what it was like or what it would be like, but I think I have a better idea now.

It was simply amazing to read about Vere’s experiences. I knew the Blitz was bad, but I had no idea – it went on fairly steadily from 1940 to 1945 and within those five years there were month-long periods during which every night there would be raids that would go on for hours. The entire country was basically going on little to no sleep for five years. And you never knew when or where they’d turn up – there are many times when Vere signs off her diary saying ‘We’ll see if I’m here tomorrow or if they’ve gotten me.’ Plus it sounded like they were expecting to actually be invaded at any moment. I had no idea how close Britain came – and yet somehow they managed to keep their spirits up. Vere and her friends would go to the cinema or to a new play (she went to see The Passing of the Third Floor Back!) or have winter fundraising events or she’d take the train to visit her family in Birmingham. This makes for oddly surreal diary entries – things like how there was an air raid the night before and then she went to see the Citizen Kane or something.

So I still have much more about the Blitz to read, but Vere’s writing is engaging and practical and provides a new perspective (and tone).

My rating: A

Also, this book is rather hard to find, but I managed to track down a first edition on one of the used book websites and look at the book plate one of the previous owners left in it:

It’s like we were meant for each other!


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