Book Review ‘Millions Like Us: Women’s Lives During the Second World War’ by Virginia Nicholson
I don’t normally write book reviews, to be honest, because I don’t find them that fun to write, but every now and again I really love a book and want to really tell people about it.
I picked this up in the library last week because I have decided that my novel for NaNoWriMo is going to be about women in World War II, and since then I have been reading this book compulsively.
It’s a history book about the lives and roles of women during the Second World War, covering everything from housewives to GI brides, nurses, Wrens and land girls, sex and stockings wars, rationing, independence, food and everything else in between.
It’s based on the diaries, interviews, and stories told by the women who lived through the war, and although I initially thought that might make it a bit choppy in narrative, Nicholson weaves the stories together beautifully. Each chapter is broken down into sections, so you are sometimes moving from place to place, situation to situation within a chapter, but it doesn’t feel jumpy.
It covers a real range of types of women as well, in age range, experiences, class and role – I was particularly drawn into the story of Lorna Bradey, who was out on the front line nursing for basically the entire war.
Nicholson’s writing is great: accessible, but witty and clearly incredibly well researched. She uses quotes and describes how the women were really feeling based on their own descriptions, and it adds this hugely emotional element to the book, which I loved. At several different points, I have nearly cried.
It’s also fascinating to hear all the ‘small’ stories she’s included, like when one lady managed to get two actual eggs (unheard of) and one of them had a double yolk, and she felt amazing because of it. This is one of the most real and humane history books I think I’ve ever read and if you have any interest in women’s history, social history or World War II I would highly recommend.