Slideshow: Memories of a Wartime Childhood
Written from a child’s point-of-view over a period of twenty years, Slideshow is an often funny, sometimes hair-raising account of the life and adventures of a family in pre-war and wartime London, with occasional forays to Cornwall.
Marjorie Ann Watts describes the vanished world of 1930s Hampstead, then still almost a village and lived in by a kaleidoscopic mix of inhabitants: families of eight or more growing up in cottages with a privy in the yard and no bathroom, in the same street or back to back with much grander and privileged establishments. Described, too, is life in the sealed-off, cocooned world of a middle-class nursery with nanny, mother and artist father upstairs anxious about the threat of approaching war. Then the war itself changing everybody’s lives, bringing tragedy to many, opportunity for some, ingenuity and the will to somehow manage and survive in women like the author’s mother…
Beginning with the memories of an observant if mischievous small girl, the book ends with a vivid account of what wartime London was like for a teenager with ordinary teenage interests and desires – growing up in a battered, proud city, with food and other shortages the norm, ack-ack guns on the Heath, GIs and other soldiers on the streets, doodlebugs and bombing an ever present menace. Peace comes at last, and the author records the mood of optimism and resolution which swept Churchill from office and produced the Welfare State and the NHS, promising a new start and perhaps hope for the future.
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