Thanks to Yvonne Perkins‘ idea to review a war history book in April as part of the broader Australian Women Writers Challenge, I had a bit of a look around my local libraries and came up with Jenny Gregory’s (editor) On the Home Front. Western Australia During World War II.
I would have loved to have found an Australian version of Margery Allingham’s, The Oaken Heart, which she wrote in England during WWII to give Americans (including her many friends there) a sense of what life was like in the English countryside with evacuees and the threat of imminent invasion.
On the Home Front looks backward and is a work of scholarship rather than a lived experience, but there are plentiful quotes (including from oral history) as well as images from the war years.
The broad range of topics covered in the various authors’ articles gives a sense of the all-encompassing effect of the war. Everything changed, from cooking to employment practices, transport, social attitudes, health and population.
On the Home Front lacked the cosy yet insightful tone I was hoping for–but that was an unfair hope. What it is, is a good collection with a broad range of articles that provide a starting place for people interested in the topic. The breadth of issues covered had the unfortunate effect of making the book rather large–something that I’m guessing reflects its purpose as a secondary and undergraduate reference, rather than a popular history.
The book also covered the immediate post-war period, including the Displaced Persons scheme and the health of returned servicemen.
I found the book interesting because I could picture many of the places mentioned and also because my family lived some of the experiences described in the articles. Without that sense of personal connection, I think the book would have inclined me to skim. It was just too big and too varied to create an emotional connection with its reader.