‘Finally, a book that is proving very therapeutic in these difficult times… Full of doubt, fear, anger and rueful comedy, they give the lie to the idea that the Brits maintained a stiff upper lip, but it’s immensely consoling to know that our forebears sometimes thought that they were living through the end times but survived to enjoy better and brighter days.’ Jonathan Coe, The Times
‘With 34 million of us in Tier 3, these Mass Observation diaries have an added fascination: it’s impossible to read them without coming across parallels on almost every page, people’s characters revealing themselves under wartime restrictions just as they do under Covid ones.’ The Times
‘A great book – such a good read.’ Jeremy Vine
‘Brown’s book features an eclectic selection from the wartime years and is full of fascinating and sometimes surprising insights.’ Mail on Sunday
‘Moving and unexpectedly funny, it’s these words that may offer comfort.’ Woman’s Weekly
‘What extraordinary voices of Britain living through crisis! A brilliant testament to resilience.’ Anne Glenconner
‘A stirring and evocative account of life on the home front. Full of surprises that bring a fascinating perspective on the blitz spirit.’ – Deborah Cadbury, author of Chocolate Wars and Princes at War
Throughout the Second World War hundreds of people kept diaries of their private daily lives as part of a groundbreaking national experiment. They were warehousemen and WRENs, soldiers and farmhands, housewives and journalists, united only by a desire to record the history they were living through.
For decades their words have been held in the Mass-Observation Archive, a time capsule of ordinary voices that might otherwise have been forgotten. These voices tell the human story behind the iconic events of those six years, of the individuals grappling with a world turned upside down. From panic-buying and competitively digging for victory to extraordinary acts of bravery, Blitz Spirit is a remarkable collection of real wartime experiences that represent the best and worst of human nature in the face of adversity.
Resonant, darkly funny and deeply moving, this new collection will reveal what it was like to live through a crisis of unprecedented proportions. A cacophony of hope, cynicism and resilience, Blitz Spirit celebrates ordinary lives – however small – and shines a light on the people we were, and the people we are now.
What happened, when did it happen, why did it happen – are all questions historians deal with daily as they look backwards at events. But the glory of the Mass Observation archive is that the writers are looking forward. Is Churchill a hero or a villain? Are the Germans capable of bombing London? And who is that woman – or is it a man? – being propositioned in the blackout? The Mass Observation diarists record it all as they see it, and history is made anew in front of our eyes. * Judith Flanders, author of The Making of Home * A priceless collation and an insight like nothing else. Never more timely or poignant, these writers have no time for cliches or platitudes, only an urgency to tell it like it is. Humour, despair, confusion, hope – humanity laid bare, unique and universal. * Simon Garfield, Editor of Our Hidden Lives and We Are at War *
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