Today’s Top Five Wednesday topic for Non-Fiction books could not come on a more perfect and poignant day – Armistice Day. The marking of the official end of World War One on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th hour.
I always had it in mind to mark the day with some book recommendations and talk about some books I own but haven’t yet read, and of course this timing is perfect. It also helps me narrow down quite a long list of books as I’m someone who reads quite a bit of non-fiction and fiction connected to the First and Second World Wars.
The five books I have here are connected to both wars and are a mix of those I’ve read and want to read, so let’s just dive in.
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain.
Arguably one of the most famous autobiographies to come out of World War One, Testament of Youth follows Vera Brittain as she moves from academic life at Oxford University to nursing injured soldiers in the armed forces. Having moved around to various stations in London, Malta and the Western Front, she sees the horrors and tragedies brought about by war first hand, and carries them with her as she provides care to the casualties of war. I’ve only read this once around 2013/14, and I was incredibly moved by it. It gave me an insight into the war I hadn’t explored before and I think it led the way to reading and learning more about how womens’ lives were changing at this time.
Codebreaking Sisters: Our Secret War by Patricia and Jean Owtram
Stories that have only recently been given the green light, Codebreaking Sisters follows two sisters who were drafted into the Second World War to work in codebreaking.
From reviews I’ve looked at, the blurbs are apparently a little misleading as neither of them were directly at Bletchley or cracking the main Enigma Code but they still had a part to play in Intelligence gathering, which was vital to the war. I also just like reading and learning about the lives of different women and the roles they played during the war so even if the book is not what it was advertised to be, I’ll still probably like it.
Jambusters by Julie Summers
Another World War Two book, this time chronicling the Women’s Institute in rural Britain, and what they did to help with the war effort. It’s the book that inspired the ITV series Home Fires that ran for two series in 2015/16 before being unfairly axed, which then influenced the series writer Simon Block to continue the series as novels (Keep The Home Fires Burning). I dip in and out of this book so it isn’t one I’ve read in its entirety but if there is a perspective about either war I’m interested in the most, it is the Home Front and the regular lives of people just battling down and carrying on despite the hell unleashing around them. This book is classically that and it just shows you how different the wars were on the Home Front.
Nella Last’s War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49.
In September 1939, mother and housewife Nella Last from Barrow-in-Furness started writing a diary that would last for 30 years. The diary entries were written for the “Mass Observation” project and they are basically chronicle her life during the Second World War. They’re not extraordinary compared to accounts of heroism and active fighting but they’re real, honest and thought-provoking. It’s the war that many regular women faced on the Home Front, fearing lost loves, invasion, wondering where their next meal would come from, and everything else they had to live with.
I really liked this and I wasn’t surprised by that when I finally read it because like I said with Jambusters, it’s a chronicle of everyday life which I love the most. It is social history at its finest.
Doctors In The Great War by Ian R Whitehead
Up until I found this book in the shop of London’s Science Museum, I’d read a couple of accounts following nurses on the Front Line, in the hospitals caring for injured soldiers, but I’ve never really experienced it from the perspective of the doctors who were thrown into the deep end, having to adapt to military priorities and facing new challenges such as gas poisonings and shell shock. I still haven’t as I’ve not read this yet but it is near the top of my non-fiction pile. It definitely ticks a few history boxes for me so hopefully I will find it an interesting read.
There we have it. Five non-fiction books all dedicated to the First and Second World War for Armistice Day.
What non-fiction books have you read and would recommend?
If you haven’t read any, which ones interest you the most?
Thank you for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!