War Through The Generations wasn’t the most obvious challenge for me to set out on. But the more I thought about it the more it intrigued me, and so off I went.
I am so glad that I did. I read some wonderful books and I am now much more informed than I was twelve months ago.
The challenge was to read at least five books, fact or fiction, about World War 2 during the year.
My plan was always to read, not about warfare, but about lives affected by it. I picked a list but as I read I found myself drawn to other books, and so it changed.
Here’s what I read:
1. Doreen, by Barbara Noble
The story of a child evacuated from London to the country who becomes torn between her mother and the family that took her in. Barbara Noble’s novel is both beautiful and thought-provoking. It awakened a particular interest in evacuation – the more I think about it the more extraordinary it seems.
2. On the Other Side: Letters to my Children from Germany 1940-46, by Mathilde Wolff-Mönckeberg
This is a volume of letters written (but never posted) by a 60 year-old woman, to her children living abroad, about the experience of living in Hamburg during the war. They were discovered in a drawer in the 1970s and published in England and Germany in 1979. It was interesting to see the war from the other side, but many important questions go unanswered.
3. Kisses on a Postcard: A Tale of Wartime Childhood, by Terence Frisby
Memories of a young boy evacuated to Cornwall.It wasn’t on my list but there were so many reasons to read this. I heard so much praise. After Doreen I wanted to read the story of a real evacuee. The setting is very close to home. It is quite wonderful, and it led me to a similar account of a boy evacuated to my father’s home town – Away From The Bombs by Ricky Clitheroe.
4. London War Notes 1939 – 1945, by Mollie Panter-Downes
I had intended to read Mollie Panter-Downes’ wartime short stories, but when I found this collection of her reports from London for the New Yorker I had to read it. It is an extraordinarily vivid account of the war through Londoners’ eyes, and it really is a book that needs to be brought back into print.
5. Night Thought of a Country Landlady, presented by Edith Olivier
Another book I spotted in the library. I was curious to see the war through the eyes of an elderly lady, and to see evacuation from the other side. It proved to be charming and thought-provoking – and another book that I would love to see reissued.
And I actually said that I would read six books, so here’s one more:
Under Fire: Children of the Second World War Tell Their Stories, by Phil Robins and Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum has a sound archive. This book is a collection of first-hand accounts from people who grew up during the World War II
There is an extraordinary range of stories:
German childrens’ memories of growing up in Hitler’s Germany. Jewish children living with strictures. Happy and sad stories from evacuees. Horrific accounts from children living in the ghettos. Happy and sad stories of children who became refugees. Children who never saw their families again. Children living in cities being bombed. Children who survived concentration camps.
So many individual accounts. So much that I could say, but I am overwhelmed.
And of course these are only the survivors’ stories. So many children died, or were unable to speak about what they lived through.
This is a difficult book, it is one that really must be read.
Finally I must thank Anna and Serena for hosting such a wonderful challenge. And for such an informative challenge blog. Do take a look – and think about signing up for the new 2010 challenge..