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Few Eggs and No Oranges

by Vere Hodgson
Persephone book no:

8 9 10


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PREFACE BY JENNY HARTLEY
624pp
ISBN 9780953478088

Few Eggs and No Oranges is sub-titled 'A Diary showing how Unimportant People in London and Birmingham lived through the war years 1940-45 written in the Notting Hill area of London by Vere Hodgson.' Vere was a sparky, unflappable, 38-year-old social worker. She had lived in Notting Hill since the early 1930s and nothing, certainly not Hitler, was going to force her to leave. Thus the outbreak of war in some respects made little difference to her life, but the beginning of the Blitz did - which is why she chose to start her published diaries on the day it began, 25 June 1940: 'Last night at about 1 a.m. we had the first air raid of the war on London. My room is just opposite the police station, so I got the full benefit of the sirens. It made me leap out of bed...'

The war continued for five more years, but Vere's comments on her work, friends, what was happening to London and the news ('We hold our breath over Crete', 'There is to be a new system of Warning') combine to make Few Eggs and No Oranges unusually readable. It is a long - 600 page - book, but a deeply engrossing one.

The TLS remarked: 'The diaries capture the sense of living through great events and not being overwhelmed by them... they display an extraordinary - though widespread - capacity for not giving way in the face of horrors and difficulties.' Meanwhile, the Tallahassee Democratic Review described Few Eggs as 'a classic book that still rings vibrant and helpful today... a heartwarming record of one articulate woman's coping with the war.'

Endpaper

On the endpaper we have used 'London Wall', a fragment of a Jacqmar scarf showing a brick wall as the background to the brightly-coloured slogans that were so much a part of wartime life.

Picture Caption

Post-war Notting Hill Gate by Marianne Von Werther (1904-84).


Read What Readers Say

Simon Savidge (blogger)

I found 'Few Eggs and No Oranges’ a really interesting and engrossing read. Not everyone is born to be a diarist, but Vere Hodgson draws us straight in. My reading tip is to spread it out over a longer period of time as you cannot read it like a novel, even if the 600+ pages have a wonderful warmth that some diaries can lack.

A Persephone reader via email

A memorable and significant read… At the last entry I too felt I had lived through the five years of war with her and was whole-heartily relieved that the War had finished; I could feel the rejoicing, the pain, the relief… Vere Hodgson’s last entry for this book (Wednesday 16th May 1945) is very poignant: the rescinding of the Gloom and Despondency bill. I personally wasn’t aware that it existed. It was against the law for you to be gloomy & despondent and look miserable! ... even when bombs are dropping around you right, left and centre? It goes some way to explain government catch-phrases at the time such as ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Vere concludes by saying “Now we can be as unhappy as we please! Freedom is returning.” Wonderful. I smiled.

Marybeth via Goodreads

I was so absorbed in this book that after a while it felt like I was living through the Blitz with the author and her family and friends. It's a very straightforward read, and personal details about the author's inner life are few and far between, but you absolutely feel like you're there with Vere in her bedsit in Notting Hill. The historical details are invaluable to anyone interested in the time period.

Categories: Diaries History London Shopping WWII

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