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'I can never understand how the scribbles of such an ordinary person ...can possibly have value.' So wrote Nella Last in her diary on 2 September 1949. More than sixty years on, tens of thousands of people have read and enjoyed three volumes of her vivid and moving diaries, written during the Second World War and its aftermath as part of the Mass Observation project - and the basis for BAFTA-winning drama Housewife 49 starring Victoria Wood. The Diaries of Nella Last, brings together into a single volume the best of Nella's prolific outpourings, including a great deal of new, unpublished material from the war years. Capturing the everyday trials and horrors of wartime Britain and the nation's transition into peacetime and beyond, Nella's touching and often humorous narrative provides an invaluable historical portrait of what daily life was like for ordinary people in the 1940s and 1950s. Outwardly Nella's life was commonplace; but behind this mask were a penetrating mind and a lively pen. As David Kynaston said on Radio 4, she 'will come to be seen as one of the major twentieth century English diarists.'
Patricia and Robert Malcolmson are social historians with a special interest in Mass Observation. They have edited several MO Diaries, including Nella Last's Peace and Nella Last in the 1950s. They live in Nelson, British Columbia.