Family shelters together

3rd November 1995 at 00:00
DAILY lIFE IN A WARTIME hOUSE By Laura Wilson Hamlyn Pounds 9.99. - 0 600 58694 4

Can you think of any good reason why you should paint white stripes on a cow? Well, Laura Wilson in her book on the wartime house, reveals that it was done in World War II so that motorists could see these beasts in the blackout; moreover, she produces a photograph to prove it. An inquisitive class will no doubt want to know why cows would be crossing the road in the dark anyway and someone will make a joke about a zebra crossing but by then a door will have been opened to life 50 years ago.

This whole book is a doorway into the past offering tantalising glimpses of wartime Britain ranging well beyond the limits defined by its title. There is material on sheltering in the underground, the WVS, salvage and digging for victory. Personal information about a family called the Allpresses - letters, quotations and photographs - provides a well-judged human touch that does inevitably make the structure of the book quite complex. Interwoven with facts about salvage, for example, is an anecdote about the railings being removed from outside the Allpresses' house. There are also quotations from Nellie, Eva, Betty and others liberally distributed throughout the 48 pages ensuring that it will only be older more able children who will find their way easily through the extensive text. A library copy would be a worthwhile investment for those teaching Britain since 1930 to top juniors.

The book has style, its excellent material is presented artistically if somewhat coldly. Sadly the text is marred by the confusing mixture of tenses employed. In close proximity you get Churchill "made several appearances" and "people are rushing out into the street" which is not only very clumsy but gives the book a voice which even adults may find confusing.

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