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London 1945: Life in the Debris of War

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  179 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
When Hitler unleashed a fierce barrage of weapons on the defiant capital of England, London's resilient citizens were undaunted. With colorful detail and rich insight, historian Maureen Waller takes readers through London in the last year of war. She reveals the magnificence of human spirit that carried a besieged people through agonizing travails and the long, giddy trans ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published April 26th 2004)
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Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really fascinating social history of London during World War II and the period just afterwards, concentrating on social, economic and political aspects , and with especial emphasis on the individual stories of the real men, women and children who lived in the city at this time. The author gives us a window into how the people of London survived the rockets and bombs falling on the city in the last year of the war, and the tragic casualties and fatalities, which included babies and children., h ...more
Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the things I love most about London is the shabbiness. Yes we have the beauty of St Pauls and Tower Bridge and so on, but you don’t have to walk far from St Pauls or Tower Bridge to end up in some grotty and unlovely part of Barbican or Bermondsey. I like how the grand and the grotty sit side by side, that unlike Paris (which feels like a museum) London has a distinctly lived in and worn feel. Yes, London can be seen and enjoyed in some riverside bar on the South Bank, but it’s also there ...more
Jun 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've got a different edition from the one pictured here. The photograph used shows Londoners celebrating VE Day in May 1945, a time of celebration because five years of deprivation and massive destruction had come to an end.

It was a time of release, and maybe the photograph was taken on the day I was conceived. I was born on February 13th 1946, nine months later. It's nice to think that my existence is the result of a happy passion.

The book is about the transition between war and peace; quite cl
The Library Lady
Sep 25, 2009 rated it liked it
This is one of the periods of history that fascinates me, and I've read a good deal of fiction and non-fiction about the period. This has its value, but is also sadly flawed.

There was a lot of good, solid, really interesting stuff here. Anecdotal quotes were well chosen, but her prose is uneven, and chapters skip back and forth in time in a way that can confuse the reader.

If you're going to chose Dorothy Sayers as the one popular author you mention, it might be worth it to be aware of the fact t
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am grateful this book was in the new books section at the Lewis and Clark library and caught my eye. The very detailed description of the debris of WWII in London gave me pause, enlightening me about the human aspect of the before, during, and post war damage in Britain.
This is a book for historians, genealogists and those who want to learn more about the greater world history.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A really fascinating social history of London during World War II and the period just afterwards, concentrating on social, economic and political aspects , and with especial emphasis on the individual stories of the real men, women and children who lived in the city at this time. The author gives us a window into how the people of London survived the rockets and bombs falling on the city in the last year of the war, and the tragic casualties and fatalities, which included babies and children., h ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a fascinating study of life in London at the end of WWII. I learned a lot and enjoyed reading it...but Waller is just not a particularly good writer. There was too much tedious detail, such as a list of exactly which areas in London were patrolled by specific watch groups. In many places it read like a grocery list. There were many interesting anecdotes but they seemed to be just tossed into the writing without really "belonging" to the story. Waller did a great deal of research that wa ...more
Jerry Smith
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, 2016-read
I am a history buff and particularly fond of micro-histories that concentrate on a particular time or particular event. Some of the better ones I have read focus on one year and this is such a book, as will be obvious from the title.

1945 was obviously an important year for the World, but perhaps especially for London having endured some frontline bombing during the preceding 5 years and seeing the war coming to an end. However the city was dealing with the Vengeance weapons (V1 and V2) and this
Norman Metzger
Very well written and revelatory (to me) of how destructive the V-1 (what the Londoners called "Doodlebugs") and the V-2 weapons (launched up to April 1945) were. I simply had no idea how bad it was, and this book painted that picture for me. I liked the other chapters -- food, housing crime, etc. -- as well, although they exhibited a bit too much of the "index-card syndrome" for me; .e. get your stories, facts, anecdotes, quotes on individual cards, order them, and then write the chapter from t ...more
Wow,I was totally blown away reading what it was like for England during WW II! I appreciate so much,how 'in-depth' this book is in showing the horror of what the British went through. Having to evacuate their children to keep them safe.Trying to live with everything rationed. Even what it was like when huge numbers of the American and other allied G.I.s were stationed in England. Can't think of anything the author didn't cover.

(My Air Force father was stationed in England from 1954-57 several
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, wwii, history
My interest in World War II history centers on the home front rather than on the battlefield so it was only natural that I’d be drawn to Maureen Waller’s book about life in London during that time. Although London 1945 emphasizes the final year of the war, Waller includes many facts about the harsh realities before and after the war as well.

The first half of the book highlights the determination and courage of the English people to protect their homeland. But the second half of the book points o
Apr 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Resuming reading today...excellent writing...

Compelling, comprehensive survey of the totality of war on every aspect of life in London and Great Britain. Writing with great insight, Waller conveys the sufferings of the British people through her distillation of an amazing mass of data and little known factual information and portrays a population, terrified, but somehow carrying on through six long years war and several more years of deprivation of the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.

Barbara Mader
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
Less of the detailed data about damage, injuries, bombs, rationing, looting, housing shortages, etc. than the book AUSTERITY BRITAIN, but far more readable. I was impressed by how well Maureen Waller handled this. This one will go on the WWII shelf . . . .

I am upping this a star after reading Stransky's book on the first day of the Blitz. Waller marshalled more information in a far more lucid and entertaining manner, without inserting herself into the text in the distracting way Strans
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Detailed and enlightening account of life if the UK during and after the war. I was very interested to learn that the greater mixing of the urban poor with the more well-off population due to evacuations and military service helped influence the development of the welfare state, as many were previously unaware of their dire living conditions. The differences in infant mortality alone were staggering, as many women had access to proper nutrition and pre/postnatal care for the first time thanks to ...more
Brent McCulley
Oct 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Nothing intrigues me more, as a historian, than the in depth study of people, places, and events during WWII. As an American who is ethnically English, this book hits close to home, as my Nana gave me this as a gift - she was present in the underground train tunnels as a child during the German air raids on London in 1945. A historical tale of epic proportions, London 1945 was a pleasurable read indeed.
Brent McCulley (10/24/13)
James Elder
A little patchy. Some chapters excellent (the one on crime, especially); others (eg the one on the media and propaganda) not quite so good. Title presents a somewhat false prospectus as it's as much about the whole war as 1945. Opinionated too, and not always backed by evidence. A good read, but if you were to read only one book on British social history in this period, I'd recommend Juliet Gardiner's 'Wartime' instead.
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, wwii-europe
Okay, I'll admit, I gave up on this one. It was interesting for a while because I learned much more about the types of rockets used against London during the war and how Londoners tolerated/survived (or not) the attacks. But it did get tedious and I found other passtimes. Had to return it to the library unfinished.
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
So many of WWII related books are devoted to the military portion of the war or the Holocaust that the British home front is greatly neglected. It was fascinating to read a book that just concentrated on such a small time period and on the UK. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who in interested in the social history of war.
David Bisset
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heroic history of ordinary people

The book is full of fascinating detail about the Home Front. The State's involvement in all aspects of life was extraordinary. The complexity of what was required to deal with the complexities of war was amazing. This is an exciting saga of social history. The theme is London, but there
were many parallels elsewhere.
Sep 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all history nerds
I'm still obsessed with WW2 books and have just started this one. The detail is great - from the scale of the destruction of entire parts of London to the description of the moat around the Tower of London being turned into one giant vegetable patch. And I can't get the image of a person who was sliced clean in half vertically by a falling sheet of glass out of my head.
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary close up view of the effects of war. It's unbelievable the hardships that Londoners suffered. It must have taken Waller years to write the account, she included over 30 pages of references. One might consider it too detailed, but I learned a great deal and came away so impressed with the organization the government displayed and the courage of the people.
Dec 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting study on the history of London during the war. Some of the book was quite dry, but that was to be expected. I enjoyed learning more about London and the effects of war on its population.

I did enjoy this book, but it took a lot longer for me to read than expected. If you are interested in history, this is a book for you.
Lisa of Hopewell
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history geeks
Very, very interesting. WHAT people lived thru!! I loved "the 1940s House" on PBS so this book is a great follow up on that show. It is mind-boggling all the detail the British government had to work out and manage--and all with paper files, no computers.
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
It is easy to see the history of world war II as a military one but there is a civilian story and Waller pens and intriguing one. This is a very warmly articulated history of the suffering, resolution, and celebration that was LONDON 1945.
Janet Petrucha
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book it was just like reviewing my life I lived thru this war . It was right on exactly what happened. A great book and writer. She portrayed it honestly and with great detail. Loved it. Thanks Maureen Waller. I have it in my library I treasure it.
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
I finally gave up on this book. The degree of detail was too fine for it to be a good read; it felt like a book to dip into occasionally and I just couldn't sustain interest at that level of minutiae. Lots of good information, but not terribly readable.
Mark Barnes
Nov 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent portrait of life in London as the end of the war approached. Told primarily from a female perspective (hardly surprising given that the author is a woman, and many of the men were away from the city), it superbly captures the both the trials and the spirit in London.
Lee Chia
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Learnt a lot about the horrendous times my grandparents lived through and mother was born into. A really fascinating read about the social history of war and its aftermath
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and easy to read
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and thorough, this book was exactly what I wanted it to be.
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Maureen Waller was educated at University College London, where she studied medieval and modern history. She received a master's degree at Queen Mary College, London, in British and European history 1660--1714. After a brief stint at the National Portrait Gallery, she went on to work as an editor at several prestigious London publishing houses. Her first book was the highly acclaimed 1700: Scenes ...more
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