The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that my recent reading has comprised Wartime Farm: Rediscovering The Skills And Spirit Of World War II. I was kindly sent a copy of said book by the Octopus Publishing Group to review in conjunction with the BBC2 series.
The format of the Wartime Farm programme follows that previously used for both the Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm series, whereby archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands, and social historian Ruth Goodman recreated down to the minutest detail what life on a farm would have been like during that period. If you watched these series, you'll be aware that rural life wasn't all rosy, clean and jolly like that portrayed in BBC1's adaptation of Flora Thompson's Larkrise to Candleford.
In my opinion, the Wartime Farm has been the best yet and the book is an excellent accompaniment to the series. After an introduction that includes a resume of the presenters and an overview to the war years, the book is broken down into eight chapters that provide a comprehensive discussion of farming, life on the home front, rationing, the mobilisation of the workforce and the subsequent social changes brought about by the war. Until I watched the series, I had never come across the account of Amelia King's fight against racism in order to join the Women's Land Army (WLA). Amelia's own personal battle is fully documented within the book and deserves highlighting, especially for her tenacity in standing up to voice her opposition about the 'colour bar' that other women of Afro-Caribbean origin had experienced when signing up for the WLA.
On a lighter note, the book also includes some diverse and crafty (in both meanings of the word) 'How To' guides, such as making Christmas lantern decorations, how to make shampoo out of the soapwort plant (think I might try this one out in the spring), recipes for gingerbread cake and baked potato pudding (using rations of course!), creating the pin-up perfect Victory Roll and how to make a feather quilt.
Although I read it from cover to cover, this book is perfect to dip into as it is such an easy and enjoyable read. Crammed full with historical detail and illustrations - both wartime photos and images, and stills from the series - it isn't dry and monotonous, which is a plus. This book would make an ideal Christmas present for anyone interested in twentieth century history, especially the 1940s; however, I would also recommend it to parents whose children are going to be studying WWII - especially at junior school level as it would provide them with a good understanding of how war impacted upon the life of a wartime child.
And there's more: Tune into BBC2 on Tuesday 18th December at 9pm for the Wartime Farm Christmas, where Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn look at how the blitzed, rationed and and war weary population celebrated Christmas in 1944.