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Nella Last in the 1950's (Housewife, 49 #3)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  187 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
'I can never understand how the scribbles of such an ordinary person ... can possibly have value.' So wrote Nella Last in her diary on 2 September 1949. Sixty years on, tens of thousands of people have read and enjoyed the first two volumes of her uniquely detailed and moving diaries, written during World War II and its aftermath as part of the Mass Observation project, an ...more
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2010)
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Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
There are some books where you just know that your life is better for having read them and the set of edited Nella Last diaries are in that category for me. Credit should go to the editors as they had so very, very much material to work with and the reproductions of the original pages show that it wasn't a 'mere' matter of selection - I also wondered whether as Canadian based academics they had struggled with the language given the explanations in the glossary. However, the tour de force is all ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
The last of the Nella Lasts to date. Woe is me, I've read them all, but as these are true-life diaries they repay re-reading. Nella is enjoyable as always, with her observations of human nature, the changes in the world that surrounds her, etc. Things are sadder for her as she struggles to adjust to postwar life--a problem shared by many women of her generation. They felt so needed and useful during the war years, and were able to step out of traditional "wife and mother" roles into a larger sph ...more
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The third of Nella Last's diaries, begun for the Mass Observation program in Britain during WWII and continued until the mid 1950's. I've read the first and third, and plan to read the middle installment, particularly since I know the years immediately post-war were harrowing for many English families. More than the first book, this is heavily edited and yet contains more frank accounts of Nella's relationship with her husband Will, apparently afflicted with clinical depression, and more honest ...more
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was sad to say goodbye to Nella. Then I made rice pudding, banana bread, gingerbread, biscuits, and soup. It was my daughter's birthday. She said, "I hope you read her books again next year."
Christopher Newton
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, memoir
Everything a diary should be, by one of the true diarists.
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[Audiobook version]

As we ate lunch I asked my husband, 'What would you like to do, short of putting your head in the gas oven?' He looked aggrieved at my flippancy, but wouldn't give any kind of answer.

I love Nella Last so much, and I'm sad to have come to the end of her diaries! There isn't much I have to say about this book -- it's much the same as Nella Last's Peace, and is full of the everyday details of life that I love, such as when Nella mentions a couple who receive "three electric clock
Janet Gogerty
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't realise there was a third book, spotted it in a clearance book shop for a pound - a treasure found! Like being reunited with an old friend. Nella Last wrote many many thousands of words over many years so we can only experience a dipping into them. How we would all love that our own grandparents and great grandparents had contributed so diligently to Mass Observation - a far better glimpse into recent history than the census.
Nella's observation of friends, family and her own husband ar
Anita Arentshorst
After seeing Housewife, 49 this is a bit disappointing. Most is about her husband's health, and trips to the coast or the Lake District.
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The third (and possibly final?) volume of extracts from Nella's millions of words written over more than thirty years. I loved Nella from her first volume. This one certainly has less going on than the wartime diaries but it's still quite fascinating and thought-provoking. Nella is intelligent, observant, and critical, and uses her diary to mull over all sorts of topics from the personal to the political. She tells you so much about social norms and day-to-day life in the 1950s, sometimes surpri ...more
Jun 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I found this copy in a charity shop not that long ago thinking it would be nice to finish the trilogy of diaries and see what happened later to Nella. However when I was just a few pages into this book I had a sneaking suspicion that I hadn’t actually read the second book ‘Nella Last’s Peace’. I checked – and I hadn’t. This fact continued to irritate me mildly through the first part of the book.

Nella Last – was an ordinary woman in many ways. Yet when she began to write diaries for the Mass Obse
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
this is the 3rd part of Nella's published diary, this started off as an experiment by the Mass observation in 1939 when they asked people to send their diaries on a monthly basis, this went on to the mid 50's. Nella must have been one of the few that kept on religiously, the finding of this experiment were to form the basis of several important social history books of the decade. Nella kept on with her diary right up to her death in 1968.
The diary shows what a hard era the 50's were, very simila
Piara Strainge
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With lots going on towards the end of 2014, my 12 books in 12 months Goodreads challenge has spilled over into 2015. This is the 11th...

It was so wonderful to have another installment of Nella's diaries to devour. Here are some of my favourite passages:

12th June 1950
Nella is admiring the crew and workers aboard a sailing ship that's come into the ship yard for repairs. She's pondering on colour and race and makes the comment: "It makes my theory that some day there will be one race with no warri
Lily Hamrick
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge fan of Nella Last, who may not have known it when she was writing these diaries for the British Mass Obervation Project (the idea there being that if you give British people diaries and ask them to record their impressions about WW2 and post-war Britain, they actually will do it assiduously, out of a sense of duty, and in the case of last, because she loved writing), but is a remarkable writer. In her first book, which I read quite some time ago, she writes poignantly about the devas ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Nella Last in the 1950’s, by Nella Last and edited by Robert and Patricia Malcolmson, narrated by Carole Boyd, produced by Audiogo ltd. Downloaded from

Nella Last at the age of 49 began keeping a journal at the beginning of WW II. The Malcolmsons edited a journal of her writings from 1939 through 1945. Then the editors took part of her journals from 1946 through 1949 where she talked about peace after the war. This particular portion of her continued journal goes from 1950 through 19
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adored this series of books. Essentially epistolary, each book is a collection of letters Nella Last wrote in response to questions sent to her and other women by a government study group, during WWII and beyond in England. It's fascinating to read about this remarkable woman's life. I started with the WWII book, as it was the first, and the progressed through the other three. Even though the letters deal illustrate the mundane details of a life lived quietly, Nella Last was a prolific, though ...more
Susan Brown
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: Read previous books in series
This is the third instalment of Nella Last's diaries and in my opinion the most difficult to read. It is quite a jumble of thoughts which often required me to re-read a paragraph to grasp the meaning. It is as if the editors hurried through the diaries with difficulty. However, I enjoyed the book immensely but was thankful that I had read the previous two instalments or I would not have had a clue what it was all about.

The content of Nella's diaries is quite fascinating, especially as I was a t
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I Can Tell You:
I didn't fly through this book. It didn't hold my attention nor did I long to read it when I wasn't BUT, I found it very thought provoking. Nella kept a diary much of her life like a lot of us and wrote about the goings on in her life. I imagine that this is what my grandmother's diary would have read like if she had taken the time to put her thoughts down. To write in detail the daily life she led.

My favorite parts of the book were in the food details and how she talks about
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third volume of the diaries of Nella Last who contributed to the Mass Observation incentive started by the UK government in 1937. Her other books were Nella Last's War and Nella Last's Peace. Nella lived in Barrow in Furness in northern England and wanted to be a writer. She details her life during and after the war. Her husband gave her much grief, but it seems she loved him and wanted the best for him. Her observations of nature were beautifully written. Patricia and Robert Malcolm ...more
Sally George
The first half was a little heavy going but I enjoyed the second half more so overall I am so pleased I have read all of the books in the Nella Last diary series. I grew quite fond of her and she has a good way of writing with description and flow. Her husband grew harder to live with as he became older and I see the same traits in an elderly relative, needy yet reclusive. She coped well with this although the things she longed to go out and do would have the pleasure outweighed by days of her h ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third of Nella Last's diaries that I've read and it has been a very interesting journey. It has been fascinating to see how much life for English people changed over the 10 years since the start of the second world war and how today's society has been shaped. I like Nella and women of her ilk - she is so like my grandmother. I think women of my generation don't appreciate how difficult life was for so many women, not so long ago.

I know that Nella kept writing her diary for many more
Mary A
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I absolutely adore this book.
We are taken into the heart and mind of a wonderful woman - a thrifty and careful housewife, a wonderfully hard worker with a sharp tongue and a kind heart and the most forbearing and considerate wife in the world.
All three of the Nella Last diaries are utterly absorbing.
This is the third of Nella's mass observation diaries, quite heavily edited, but they need to be as she writes so prolifically and in such detail. Her husband is an odd cove, and she copes with him so well! So sorry that her little cat Shan We died (even though it was before I was born!) I do recommend reading Nella's diaries for a genuine social insight.
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Housewife 49 seems to be regularly shown on ITV3 and after thoroughly enjoying it, I was delighted to receive this for Christmas. Nella is intriguing, much stronger than portrayed on TV and her descriptions of every day life, what she prepared for lunch and tea and the beauty of the lakes are just wonderful. I need to go backwards now and read the war diaries!
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In some ways I enjoyed this volume of Nella Last's diaries more than the 2 which preceded it. For me it has a very nostalgic feel since I grew up in England and remember many of the things in the 1950s that she writes about. I also very much enjoyed her descriptions of the Lake District...she has a real feel for writing about nature.
Nov 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's my review of this book.
Fee Campbell
Jan 09, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating details of life in the early 1950s.I wonder if her friends and neighbours had any idea about her contributions to Mass Observation?
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-bio
Sad and unhappy, but with a real sense of coping, regardless of what comes next.
Dec 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third part of the story - Nella has been writing for over 10 years and we've another 18 to go... It seems remarkable that none of her writing was actually read during her lifetime.
Jane Arschavir
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed completing the trilogy but sad to say goodbye to Nella.
Donna Boultwood
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled with the first half of the book, I just couldn't get in to it, but something just clicked halfway through! What a different time. Some really moving passages.
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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

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Housewife, 49 (3 books)
  • Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49'
  • Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife 49

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