Nella Last in the 1950s is the third (and sadly last) of the books (following Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49' and Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries Of Housewife 49 ) that have been compiled from the many diary entries that Nella Last submitted as part of the Mass Observation project. The title is pretty self-explanatory and contains entries from the 1950s. Admittedly not as "exciting" a time in history as the war years or period of change immediately following them, but fascinating all the same in terms of seeing how a normal housewife's life was at the time.
One common thread through all of Nella's diaries is the role of food. She is forever writing about the meals that she has prepared, often from rationed ingredients (remember that rationing didn't end until meat finally came off ration in 1954), and I am frequently stunned by the amount of food that she seems to put on the table. What has therefore been particularly interesting is reading Feeding the Nation: Nostalgic Recipes and Facts from 1940-1954 at the same time. This book, by the wonderful Marguerite Patten OBE, gives a detailed insight into the recipes of the day and how people made the most of the limited food that they had available to them at the time. If you have an interest in war time cookery then this book is a must.
What is also fascinating in the diaries is how Nella and many of the women she knew often spoke about missing the camaraderie of wartime when the women used to work together in the "Canteen" or in various other vital roles supporting troops and those left at home. As much as none of them wanted to return to the horrors of war, they did often say that it brought out the best in people. With the 1950s cold war threats hanging over them many did wonder if these times would return, and certainly when the 1953 North Sea floods occurred Nella took on a lead role in organising Barrow's response to help flood victims in a manner that was very impressive.
If you've read the first two instalments of Nella's diaries then this book is highly recommended as a way of rounding off the story. It's a shame that there will be no further books, but I certainly feel keen to seek out some of the other books that came out of the Mass Observation project.