London Was Ours: Diaries and Memories of the London Blitz, Amy Helen Bell



“At this time I was not the only one who hugged London to my beating heart.  London was ours from the hour the blacked-out night hid its beauty until the morning siren signaled the coming day, most triumphantly ours when the full moon rose and shone on its age-old face and we knew the Germans would not be coming.” – Joan Bright Astley

Last September I had the privilege to finally go to the “Britain At War” museum on Tooley St. in London.  I had seen it once before — vintage war posters plastered all over the front of it.  By the time I got there the museum was facing closure (and as of last January officially has closed), and for me, the history buff, I was already distraught that such an interesting time in history would lose its place by the Thames.  Fortunately last Christmas, my aunt bought me this book after our visit, as if to have a part of it with me. 

Amy Helen Bell’s approach to use only first hand accounts in her analysis of the Blitz in London was what I appreciated most about this book.  What I am learning to appreciate more and more as not just a history student, but also a creative writing student, is people’s adherence to historical facts and details.   As tempted as I would be to write a story about the Blitz, I need to almost remember that the actual letters and diaries and notes that have survived should take the central role in showing the reality of the London Blitz.

Although I wasn’t always keen on the structure of the book, I liked the details that Bell explored.  My favourite chapter by far was the “Sexuality of the Blitz” chapter — as we can all expect, many Londoners when facing what they perceived as an “impending doom” immediately threw a lot of their morals out the window, and found themselves going home with anyone who had access to a safe, dark basement.  Can’t say I blame them at all.

The accounts of survival can’t really be scrutinized overly, but I truly stand in awe of how people carried on so seamlessly, even if their nerves were shot from sleepless nights or hearts spent in agony thinking of who could be next.  It truly makes you believe in the resiliency of the human spirit and mind. 

Books Read: 18


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