Book Review: Nella Last’s War Essay

Book Review: Nella Last’s War Essay

The following paper provides a book report and review of the book Nella Lasts War which is based on the personal diary entries of Nella Last, and edited by Robert Broad and Suzie Fleming. The diary excerpts have now been made into a short miniseries titled Housewife 49 which also provide insight into the life of a female women an in Britain at the time the when the whole world was at war.

The book Nella Last’s war is essentially asset of periodic records about life. A normal housewife and mother who had her son enrolled in an army started writing a diary at the start of the World War II in 1939 and proceeded to continue with the task even after the war. The book Nella Lasts’s War provides the entries in her diary which correspond with the World War II providing how the war was powerful as well as different for the people at the home front. The entries that have been made by Nella are descriptive as well as regular in their recordings providing us with a high quality periodic set of records on the lives of the civilian public in Britain. As it was Nella’s aim to depict how the life in Britain was affected by war, she manages to depict in her diary entries the various feelings of the general civilian public in Britain relating to the war at hand.

The diary on which the book is based was commenced by Nella Last as part of the Mass Observation Archive Program in 1939 where she volunteered to contribute and work for the archive. Her main objective was to be able to record the opinions of the British public on the war as well as the life in Britain, and how it was affected by war

The unique aspect of the book Nella Last’s War is that it does not focus on the recreating the atmosphere of war or describing the events that formed the war enforced with the attitude. Instead the book provides in depth and valuable insight into the emotions being felt by a woman with grown sons and her opinion on war and life during war. The perspective of the general British public is represented in the book instead of the devastation of war and a recounting of the war based events. Her struggle to cope with the Blitz and to control her nerves are evidently recorded in her diary entries which depict how she manages to think of and develop unique ways through which to survive the war period. The war time struggle in the book is depicted through the perspective of the woman, Nell who has a distant and withdrawn husband and sons who have long left the home. The modern empty nest situation puts a unique perspective on the accounts of Nella Last from 1939 in a realistic and original manner.

The book clearly depicts that Nella religiously kept a routine of writing a diary noting down her frustrations, fears, anxiety as well as the various problems amd issues that she had top cope with in order to survive the war period. The book provides that Nella Last had a dysfunctional relationship with her husband who had the tendency to spread gloom while her obsession and love for her sons is crystal clear in her accounts for all to see. The distant relationship that she had with her husband during the time can be read from in between the lines where she talks about her marriage and how it has made them strangers in a world of their own. Her frustration with lack of support from her husband as well as a working physical relationship is also clearly depicted in her diaries.

The truly unique aspect of the book Nella Last’s war is that it provides a woman’s account of war. Most of the text available about life and war during the World War II is written by Men based on their experience of the war at home as well as in the Battle fields. As a result we are bombarded with what men have contributed to the Second World War. This book however provides insight into the war of a woman, about how she manages to control a family during turbulent times of war, how she tries to salvage and work with a stale marriage while striving to stay alive. The book helps us understand war form a woman’s perspective.

Trying to defy the turbulent times she was facing Nella Last records every aspect of her life in her diaries with excerpts that describe about her shopping trips, her cooking to feed her family, the way she suffers with her health, the worry and anxiety that she has for her sons as well as the exhaustion and sleep deprivation that she has to deal with on a daily basis. The book vividly illustrates how she gathered food at a time of unavailability, cooking it in such a manner in order to retain its nutritious for her husband and her sons even through they did not have the money to afford any sort of proper meals. The book also provides information about related content through association as well especially when it comes to Nella’s life before the war. While Nella did not keep the practice of writing a diary in her early years, it can be deciphered in between the lines that she faces issues pertaining to health mostly because of her marriage and her relationship with her in-laws that have contributed to affect her life during war.

The aspect of marriage that is covered by Nella is uniquely different as from other accounts of World War and women. As she is a middle aged woman during war with grown sons, she clearly depicts her envy for the women who would be getting married after the war was over. She explains this by stating that the women in the future would be able to select the men they want to marry, have their own lives and independence as well as have a life where they do not have to arrange their lives according to the men in their lives. This presents position of women and their liberty before and after the war and the related perception of a woman during the Second World War.

On the whole the book provides how ordinary families in Britain coped with war and the issues that it raised back home for them. The perspective of a women is made evident by the book on life during and after the war, especially on the issues that were faced by them and the hardships that they had to go through in order to survive. One women, Nella’s recorded experience provides that women at that time were strong institutions that pulled families through the turbulent times of war to emerge successful in claiming a new way of life for themselves, showing how a different kind of war was won by them at home.


Last, N., Broad, R., Fleming, S., ‘Nella Last’s war: a mother’s diary, 1939-45’, (Sphere: 1983)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *