After my unsuccessful attempt with Day, I though twice about picking up Nella Last’s War, my reading group choice for this month. I had seen parts of Victoria Wood’s TV adaptation and found it interesting but in a worthy rather than an attention-grabbing way.
By comparison, the book is a revelation. Unlike the sepia feel of the TV version, it bursts with colour and vitality, not just in the arresting descriptions of Nella’s house, garden and trips to the Lakes, but in the sheer individuality of the writing. I have to remind myself that this is fiction, and any novelist could take it as an object lesson in bringing someone alive on the page, not just in terms of hopes, dreams and aspirations, but also as a credible and consistent voice.
It has also brought home to me, how little I know of the actual progress of WWII, as opposed to the disjointed newsreel pictures in my head that give a distorted and probably anachronistic impression of the period described by my parents as ‘during the war’. Here’s a day by day account of events and the impact they had in an average town where no one knew what the outcome would be. It makes Nella’s resilience all the more incredible.
I’ve heard that the TV version is running again soon, but for the whole experience, read the book!