Our Hidden Lives by Simon Garfield

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Darren has had this book for a while and I picked it up whilst hankering after something more biographical to read than my usual fare. (I think Darren actually ended up listening to a radio adaption rather than reading it.) It is the interleaved diaries of five people covering the period just after the end of WWII.

The diaries were written for a government initiated “Mass Observation” project started in the 1930s (and it seems it still goes on today) – the various characters included in the book have all I think gone a bit beyond the project’s remit, but these diaries are fascinating! Mostly they are taken up with everyday grumbling about prices, rations, politics, neighbours etc and although some of their thoughts are rather unpalatable sixty years later the underlying nature of the diarists was pretty familiar.

I’m pleased to find out that there are various other books based on the Mass Observation archive – two more by Garfield since he edited this one and several others that look worth looking into too.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.