Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wainwright: The Man Who Loved the Lakes - Martin Wainwright

Published by the BBC to accompany a delightful short series of programmes about Wainwright broadcast earlier this year, the book is packed with gorgeous photographs of Lakeland which echo the bewitching beauty and grandeur of this most beguiling of English regions. The first part of the book's text is a potted biography of the man (although sharing a surname with his subject, the author is unrelated) which leads naturally into the second part: a survey of the subject matter of the Pictorial Guides that made Wainwright famous. The book is rounded off with a description of ten classic Lakeland walks as proposed by Wainwright. A delightful read for Wainwright fans and anybody fascinated by the lure of Lakeland.


Our Hidden Lives - Simon Garfield

Subtitled "The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain 1945-1948", this book presents extracts from the diaries of five contributors to the Mass Observation project that sought to capture the attitudes, desires and fears of ordinary people as an "anthropology of ourselves" during and immediately after the war. The picture of austerity Britain that emerges from these diaries is a sharp reminder of how hard life was in Britain in the immediate post-war years: we might have won the war but the nation was bankrupt and starving and the population no longer had the incentive of "pulling together to win the war" to help them through their privations.

The glimpse offered of the private lives of these five ordinary people is deeply moving: the directness and unaffectedness with which they wrote emphasises that these are real diaries of real people and the experience of following them through more than two years of their lives left me feeling close to them, involved in their concerns and very sad to leave them in mid-stream.