Saturday, 19 July 2008

A World to Build by David Kynaston

A fascinating history of 1945-48, drawing on published accounts, diaries and letters, and the Mass Observation archive. The use of unpublished material gives the text a fresh, vivid appeal and conveys very effectively the miseries of living during this period. The writing is peppered with Kynaston's own wry humour and some very good jokes: my favourite was the story of the Minister for Housing, a Mr Silkin, getting barracked by the people of Stevenage at a meeting intended to convince them that the new town development was a good thing, and finding, when he came to take his leave, that the local youth had let down his tyres. The book is intensely evocative of the tiredness everyone suffered, having struggled through the war; the cold and the squalor; but also the strengths of the dreams of social improvement and the sense of opportunity amongst those with the energy and power to undertake that improvement. I can hardly wait for the next volume.

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