What I Read In 2014

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This is a quick look at some of the books that I read this year!

Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson

This book examines the impact of the First World War on the woman who were left behind. The huge casualties of WW1 meant that there were around two million women in the UK who, statistically, could never marry. I loved this book, it gave me a new perspective on the aftermath of the war and the cultural revolution of the twenties, it’s a heart-breaking book and really shines a light on a seriously neglected part of history. It doesn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked, but then I have yet to find any book that does.

Too Many Murders by Colleen McCullough

This is one of two fiction books in this post. It was given to me a few years ago as a present by a friend. I love crime novels and this one was nice to plough through; there are better books out their for dedicated crime fans, but I did enjoy reading this on my breaks and I’ll devour pretty much anything. If you’re like me then give this a go, it’s set in 1960s America and is a sequel to an earlier book.

1940s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook by Carlton Books

I love this book. It’s a big, glossy, sourcebook filled with photographs of models and actresses as well as sketches and catalogue pictures from the 1940s. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book and if you love 40s fashion then you have to get this. I love it so much, I could flick through it over and over again. It doesn’t show you what the woman on the street looked like, which is my only gripe, but it does show you what they would have seen in the media and what they would have had the chance to buy.

A Nurse at the Front: The First World War Diaries of Sister Edith Appleton

This is a wonderful book, as the title states; it’s the real diaries of a real nurse who worked in France during the First World War. If you want a true glimpse into nursing in the war then I would suggest you read this book. Edith comes across as a wonderful, strong woman who is very happy in her own skin. She’s calm and capable and talks through the horrors of war in such a matter-of-fact way that I don’t think it’s a disturbing or sad book to read.

The Worst Street in London by Fiona Rule

This book is the chronicle of the history of Dorset Street, a street in the East End of London. If you’re trying to get into reading history then I would recommend this book. It’s short, written in an easy manner and split up into small sections. However, I didn’t enjoy this much. Most of this book is about Jack the Ripper, which is interesting, but not what I signed up for. I felt that a lot of stuff was skimmed over and it wasn’t the comprehensive study of the reality of poverty and crime in the East End of London that I had been expecting. Sad times.

A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE by Sarah Helm

On the other hand, I loved this book! I couldn’t put this thing down, I devoured it over a couple of days with keen interest. It even pulled me away from my laptop. This looks at the life of Vera Atkins, who worked for SOE during the Second World War, and looked at her journey to find the women agents who never came home. It’s such a wonderful and incredible book. It taught me several things about SOE that I didn’t know before and looked at the subject in a whole new light. I would really recommend this book to people interested in SOE and the aftermath of WW2.

Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One by Kate Adie

This book was a little spoilt for me as I watched the documentary before I read it. It’s a great book about the work that women did during the war and the different kinds of roles that they had to take up, as well as exploring the attitude towards it. It really does give a good, thorough look at the subject and expands the traditional view that women were only nurses during the war. It also looks at the changing attitudes towards women in the workplace and the impact of the end of the war.

My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young

This is the second and final piece of fiction that I read in 2014. It’s about a man who suffers a facial injury in the First World War… well, it’s about a lot more than that, but that was the reason why I bought it. It covers the story of the man as he grows up, falls in love and goes off to war. It follows other characters too- the women who he falls in love with, how she goes to war to become a nurse, and other people who I can’t remember. This was a good book to steam through… but as you can probably tell it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I liked the supporting characters much more than the main ones and enjoyed the descriptions of his injuries and treatment more than the love scenes. Maybe that’s a reflection of the kind of person I am… it was a good read, I can’t fault it too much, but it didn’t change my world.

’til next time,

Wren x

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