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Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife, 49 (Housewife, 49 #2)

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  298 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Nella Last's War established a housewife and mother from Barrow-in-Furness as one of the most powerful and moving voices of the Second World War, and inspired the award-winning television drama Housewife, 49. In this next instalment of her unique diaries, Nella Last describes how ordinary people re-built their lives after the war was over.

While the Allies' victory was a ca
Paperback, 305 pages
Published 2008 by Profile Books
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Feb 21, 2015 Graceann rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of good writing
Shelves: memoir, history
Nella Last would have been the first to tell you that she was just an "ordinary woman." I beg to differ. The life that her time put her in might have been filled with how to find a "nice bit of fish" in order to feed herself and her husband, and how to tend to her home in between power cuts, but her ability to express her feelings, thoughts and wishes can only be described as extraordinary.

Mrs. Last wrote diaries for the Mass Observation programme that started just before the Second World War a
Mar 04, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoyed Nella Last's War
Shelves: world-war-2, 2012
It's hard to assess this book on it's own as opposed to comparing it to Nella Last's War (which I loved). This was a great continuation of Nella's story - the difficult times post war, the challenges with her husband and with life in general. In some ways, these post war years were harder on Nella than the war itself. During the war she was busy and needed outside the home. She built relationships with other women and the soldiers that came into the canteen, she ran the Red Cross efforts and the ...more
Jun 05, 2016 Philippa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
A truly fascinating account of life in postwar Britain. After the hardship of war, peacetime was not all that people thought it would be. Nella's observations of her daily life, and her family and neighbours, reveal there was just as much upheaval and trauma in the aftermath of the hostilities. Soldiers return home and find their families to be strangers, one young neighbour suffers what would now be diagnosed as PND after the birth of her first child and gets bundled off to an asylum, Nella's s ...more
Piara Strainge
Dec 27, 2014 Piara Strainge rated it it was amazing
It was wonderful to pick up from where I left off at the end of Nella Last's War - VJ Day August 14th, 1945 - when I opened the pages of Nella Last's Peace. There was something very comforting about the continuation, so I didn't feel as if I'd missed any of Nella's little world and life in Barrow and the goings on with her family and friends.

You can expect more of the same wonderful prose (expertly edited) and humourous, gossipy, emotive and reflective insights, observations, thoughts, feelings
Dec 26, 2014 Josie rated it really liked it
[Audiobook version]

The feel of this was quite different to Nella Last's War. Stylistically, there was a lot more editing -- although as the editors point out, Nella Last wrote millions of words in her lifetime, so they had to prune quite heavily. Scenes are introduced with a sentence (e.g. "Nella loved visiting the Lake District with her husband" followed by a passage from her diary, detailing a day out at the Lakes) and although I understand why this was necessary, it did create a feeling of di
Aug 31, 2010 Veronica rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've already raved about Nella Last's War. By the end of that book I felt I knew Nella and longed to meet her. So this selection from her post-war diaries made me sad, as if I was reading a letter from a friend going through a bad patch. In November 1946:
I stood amongst the women waiting to be served. Well dressed or otherwise, they all had one thing in common -- a kind of look in their eyes and compressed-looking mouths, as if they had closed them tightly at times to keep back sharp words of ir
Feb 14, 2011 Natasha rated it really liked it
During WWII Great Britain formed an organization, called Mass Observation, to help monitor the average citizen's response to the war. They put ads in newspapers that asked people to submit diary entries on a regular basis. Nella Last, 49 years old at the time, started writing a diary for this group.

Years later her diary entries were found and compiled into several books. This is one of them. There was a movie, Housewife, 49, based on her experiences during the war (based on the book Nella Last'
The Library Lady
This is a sad coda to Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife, 49. Having been so busy and active and useful during the war, Nella found it a hard slog in the post war years.
I am giving this a lower rating not because of that, but because of the poor editing. While the first book allowed readers to hear Nella's voice with few editorial comments, here the editors constantly break into the diaries with comments, and instead of giving us the diaries, they give us quotations and leave
Jul 30, 2011 Rachel added it
Gentle reading. It's taken me a long time to read as I'd dip in and out of it every so often, rather than read in one sitting.

Page 208 has beautiful descriptions - Nella at her best.

The book ended rather abruptly. I'm not keen on the choice of last entry.

Like others I'd like more of Nella's diaries. Possibly some of her last years to see how they both fared near the end of their lives.
Dec 04, 2008 Anna rated it it was amazing
I read it for research, but enjoyed it as much as a novel. She was a diarist during and after WWII and was a very accessible and perceptive writer. It follow's Nella Last's War. Both are brilliant
Sally George
Nov 04, 2014 Sally George rated it it was amazing
Very enjoyable comparing Nella's life to mine. There seemed to be a bit of an anti climax after the War as the celebrations soon turned to picking up the pieces and resuming with normal life. Nella's reason for being took a downturn really but she soon found herself helping family, friends and neighbours and the more you read of Nella's diaries you just want to know what happens next. I love the way she details what they had for meals. Their main meal was at lunch time and for tea, which would b ...more
Feb 07, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
Fascinating insight into post war England.
Jun 10, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
As World War II finally ends, England is still suffering with shortages and rationing, men coming back from the various fronts have problems finding civilian jobs, and the looked-for euphoria doesn't seem to be there. Nella Last, a housewife living in Northwest England, can find no outlet for her energies and talents once her volunteer war work is over. Her friends and neighbors have problems, her husband is as unsocial and ungrateful as ever, and her beloved younger son has decided to move to A ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Míami rated it really liked it
Though obviously less eventful than her wartime diaries, I was still delighted by Nella's daily musings. Her writing gave a very vivid insight of the post-war era and it's many challenges, something I'd never really paid attention to before - the lack of jobs for the conscripted soldiers who were de-mobbed 'en masse', the struggles of women going back to housekeeping after having been so engaged in various causes and charities or employed due to the lack of male workforce, the long dragging peri ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Nella Last’s Peace, by Robert and Patricia Malcolmson, Narrated by Carole Boyd, Produced by BBC Audio Books, downloaded from

Nella Last's War introduced us to a housewife and mother from Barrow-in-Furness, who began a journal in 1939 for the Mass Observation Project-a research project collecting information on people’s daily lives. Unlike most of the diarists, Nella kept her diary sending in weekly accounts from 1939 to 1966. She had always wanted to be a writer, and in these journal
Julie Failla Earhart
Nella Last’s dairy was part of Britain’s Mass Observation Project where many non-fighting English of all different occupations chronicled the everyday events on the home front. World War II is finally. However, the war hasn’t gone away. The shortages and rationing don’t appear to be over anytime soon. Damaged men are returning home to high unemployment. Women, who had a taste of working outside the home, were asked to go back home and return their jobs back to the men.

One of these women is Nell
Jun 15, 2013 Emma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, audio
I loved Victoria Wood's Housewife, 49 film based on the writings of Nella Last during WWII. I've not read that book but started with this one (I've had it for a while before listening to it, I think perhaps it was on offer on audible). This was brilliant. I felt really drawn into Nella's life and at one point as I listened realised I was worried about her. This diary of a woman who died about 15 years before I was born brought me into her life in such a way that I felt the same concern and worry ...more
Austen to Zafón
The title is a bit misleading. As Nella says, "The only peace is that there are no active hostilities, but the corrosion of the war years is eating deeper into civiliisation." While the war years were difficult and frightening for Brits, they were also exciting and drew people together in an effort to make things better. The post-war years had many of the same difficulties of the war, but without the comradery and cheerful "we'll see it through" attitude. Rationing when on for years (for example ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I found this Bookcrossing book on the shelves of a lovely local café. Last time I went there I picked up a number of Bookcrossing books with a WWII theme, so this was a great way to follow-on. I intended to borrow Nella Last's War from the library but I have been waiting a while for a book that is supposed to be on the shelf at another branch and decided to make a start. I don't think I'll really know if that has been a mistake until I have read the first volume. What has been a mistake is to le ...more
KA N Newton
Mar 18, 2013 KA N Newton rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in attitudes to women,
Nella begins with post war messages. There are POW walking around under guard but later the guards are taken off and the POW are wandering around alone.

Though her neighbours still hate the Germans Nella finds them polite and very unlike the Poles who appear rude and uncaring.

Food is still scarce and the richer women seem to be getting clothes and food.

In 1948 the health service starts and no one seems to know who is to get what what. The local hospital is still in debt and needs her toys.

Veronica Lubkin
May 19, 2014 Veronica Lubkin rated it really liked it
I spent my early childhood in a country where the sun always shone and everything was wonderful. I had everything I wanted and food was plentiful. That was my impression then and it was interesting to find out what a sad country England was immediately after the war.

Nella Last's personality shines through her diaries which are a fascinating account of everyday life. Food is a major concern and I love the details of the appetizing "teas" she whips up for her, often, not very appreciative husband
Jul 23, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it
c2008. Echoing a number of reviewers - I certainly found this inspirational and some what comforting. The blurb on the font of the book states a quote from AL Kennedy - whilst sadly I do not know who this particular person is, I wholeheartedly agree with the comment "Tender, intimate, heartbreaking and witty - it grants us the privilege of knowing a stranger's heart". This covers the period my own mother was hitting early married life and it is fascinating to me to be able to expand my mothers o ...more
Olga Hebert
Apr 21, 2013 Olga Hebert rated it really liked it
Mass Observation is a social research organization associated with the University of Sussex. It was set up in the 1930's to establish "a science of ourselves" in Britain. Nella Last, Housewife, 49, was perhaps their most dedicated volunteer diarist, writing about her everyday life in Barrow-in-Furness and submitting weekly from 1939. She stopped writing in 1966, two years before her death.
This book, Nella Last's Peace, is an edited version of her writing after World War II, spanning years 1945 t
Nov 19, 2014 Jenny rated it really liked it
Read because of Victoria Wood film based on Nella Last. So real and human.
Angie Swain
Feb 28, 2013 Angie Swain rated it liked it
A wonderful history of life as lived by the ordinary people of Britain at the end of the Second World War and the following years. The hardships, shortages, 'making do' are hard to imagine in the materialistic world we live in now yet the tale is told with stoicism and the belief that life will change again for the better. The snippets of her personal life make Nella come alive - she is quite impatient with her husband at times and the restrictions society places on women who are treated goodly ...more
Michele Powell
Jan 27, 2016 Michele Powell rated it really liked it
I meant to download her war diaries but did this one in error. However, I really enjoyed it. She was a legend as a housewife! So many if her insights on others are so relevant at any time.
Sep 04, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Riveting, frank, sad, honest, joyful--all these emotions and more describe the entries that Nella pens in this second volume of her post-war diary. I am really looking forward to her third volume which has not been released yet.

I find myself so drawn into her life and its ups and downs that when this book ended, I felt bereft. She is such a remarkable woman, so strong...yet vulnerable and like all of us mothers, so worried about her family, especially her husband and sons.
Jun 01, 2009 Sam rated it really liked it
I couldnt read this through in one go,I have been reading it on and off since christmas.I really liked the everyday details of what she cooked for dinner and how she managed to provide a meal considering the shortages and rations and without the conveniences we have now of a fridge or freezer.They say the british diet was its healthiest during the war /ration years.I found the story of Jessie the most intresting as we picked upparts of the story through her diary entries.
Feb 28, 2009 Elisabeth rated it really liked it
Nella gives us a frank look at her life at the end of the war in England. Peace did not bring prosperity and life continued to be hard in England. Nella manages well and is proud of it. A plain housewife with so much understanding, warmth and smarts. I like this book but I liked her first book, Nella Last's War better. Life becomes a little less exciting and with age she is losing a bit of her pluck. Still a good read though.
Aug 26, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
I love diaries and this didn't disappoint. I'd already read the first volume (and seen the excellent film), so it was good to see what happened next. I loved the domestic detail - what she cooked every day, etc. You get a real sense of the hardship of that period. By the end, I became quite obsessed with what happened to her son, Cliff, and spent time Googling him ...
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Nella Last was a wife and mother who wrote up her day-to-day experience of civilian life in the Second World War as part of the Mass-Observation Archive, which was set up by sociologist Charles Madge and anthropologist Tom Harrisson to record ordinary people's views on contemporary events. She was an intelligent woman, who was stifled by her life and repressive marriage in a provincial place. Fort ...more
More about Nella Last...

Other Books in the Series

Housewife, 49 (3 books)
  • Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49
  • Nella Last in the 1950s: The Further Diaries of Housewife, 49

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