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London 1945: Life in the Debris of War
"Although Waller isn't the first to exploit these sources specifically or this rich subject generally...her 528-page book is at once abundantly and discerningly detailed...and her depiction of the daily fabric of wartime life in the capital is unrivaled....More important, it reveals not the familiar story of indomitable Londoners facing the Blitz but, rather, how the fervor of "their finest hour" modulated into a squalid and dispiriting routine, how defiance lapsed into snappishness, and how resilience gave way to exhaustion, cynicism, and not infrequently despair....This is a sad book about a city staggering to victory." Benjamin Schwarz, the Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
London at the outset of war in 1939 was the greatest city in the world, the heart of the British Empire. By 1945, it was a drab and exhausted city, beginning the long haul back to recovery.
The defiant capital had always been Hitler's prime target. The last months of the war saw the final phase of the battle of London as the enemy unleashed its new vengeance weapons, the flying bombs and rockets. They were terrifying and brought destruction on a vast scale, but fortunately came too late to dent morale seriously.
The people of London were showing the spirit, courage, and resilience that had earned them the admiration of the world during a long siege. In the harshest winter of fifty years, they were living in primitive conditions. Thousands were homeless, living in the Underground and deep shelters. Women lined up for horse meat and were lucky to obtain one egg a month. They besieged emergency coal dumps. Everyone longed for peace.
The bright new world seemed elusive. As the victory celebrations passed into memory, there were severe hardships and all the problems of post-war adjustment. Women lost the independence the war had lent them, husbands and wives had to learn to live together again, and children had a lot of catching up to do.
Yet London's loss has often been its opportunity. Its people had eagerly embraced plans for a modern metropolis and an end to poverty. They voted overwhelmingly for a Labour government and the new, fairer social order that was their reward for all they had endured.
The year of victory, 1945, represents an important chapter in London's — and Britain's — long history. Acclaimed historian Maureen Waller draws on a rich array of primary sources, letting the people tell their own story, to re-create that moment, bringing to it the social insight at which she excels.
"A gracefully rendered portrait of a great city at war....Vivid and highly readable: for students of WWII and urban history alike." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] chilling account of London life during the last months of World War II and the dawn of the postwar era....[A] well-crafted story of war and its cruel impact on a large European city." Library Journal
Book News Annotation:
Historian Waller begins with a physical description of her home town during the final year of World War II, but she is principally concerned with how people lived with the bombing, rationing, rubble, children away in evacuation, and soldiers still in danger.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
When Hitler unleashed a fierce barrage of weapons on the defiant capital of England, Londons 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 transformation the metropolis made as it passed through battle, to celebration, and back to life as usual.
Praise for Ungrateful Daughters
"Maureen Waller frames an absorbing narrative of the Glorious Revolution."
- The New York Times Book Review
"This is a family drama reported with a keen ear for delicious, gossipy detail and a satisfying willingness to take sides."
- The Washington Times
"A highly readable, thoroughly researched family saga that shows vividly how the personal and the political interacted to produce one of the seminal events in British history."
- Publishers Weekly
"Colorful period details and vivid portraits of legendary figures like the great Duke of Marlborough: lively, instructive history."
- Kirkus Reviews
"Waller's fluent narrative is solidly grounded."
- Library Journal
"This is a wonderful biography that British historical buffs will enjoy and learn from."
- Midwest Book Review
About the Author
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 from London Life. She currently lives in London with her husband, who is a journalist and author.
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