Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson by Osa Johnson

I've owned I Married Adventure since 2008, just before I moved to Texas.  We were still living in Florida and we made one last trip to DisneyWorld before we left.  Believe it or not, there are excellent books for sale all over the Disney parks in the gift shops, and not just about Disney characters and animation.  In particular, the Epcot theme park has tons of great books in the World Showcase -- nearly every country represented has books from or about that country.  I actually bought this book in a little gift shop where they had a lot of African gifts.  I think I had just read West With the Night by Beryl Markham, and was hoping it something similar.

So, this is the memoir of Osa Johnson, who was born in Kansas in 1894 and was a world traveler along with her husband, photographer and filmmaker Martin Johnson, in the early 20th century.  They had amazing adventures.  It's a really interesting story, and though I did have a few issues with the book, I'm sorry I took so long to read it.

Martin was born in a small town in Kansas in 1884.  Martin was fascinated by the cameras his father had in the family's jewelry shop, and was a self-taught photographer.  He got expelled from school at sixteen, and decided to see the world and make his fortune with his camera.  After an unsuccessful attempt on his own, he had a big break saw a magazine advertisement from the author Jack London, who was building a ship and was planning to circumnavigate the globe.  Amazingly, Martin got a spot on the ship, despite having no sailing experience. 

Though they didn't quite make it around the globe (London suffered health problems and had to cut the trip short), Martin was determined to continue with his travels.  He started speaking about his amazing voyage to groups, and began to attract enough of an audience that he rented out theaters back in Kansas, where met his wife Osa, nine years his junior.  After a whirlwind courtship, they married, and Osa joined Martin on his speaking tours, where they struggled to earn enough to go on another photography tour.  Through hard work and determination, they became an amazing team, and created groundbreaking photographs and films about wildlife (and to a lesser extent, native people), mostly in the South Pacific and Africa. 

Overall, I liked this book.  I'm really fascinated by adventures stories.  I liked reading about all the obstacles they overcame, with weather, terrain, and technical issues with early cameras. Some of their adventures were quite harrowing and even a little gruesome.   In the South Seas, where they sought out natives who'd had little contact with Western culture, some of whom were actual cannibals and head-hunters.  (I used to think this was a myth.  It is not.)  Osa and Martin also met some really fascinating people, including legendary explorers and even royalty.  For example, while on an extended trip in Kenya (then British East Africa) in 1925, they ended up meeting the Duke and Duchess of York -- the future George VI of England (for us Yanks, that's the same monarch from The King's Speech, who took over when his brother abdicated and was the father of the current monarch, Elizabeth II). 

Osa Johnson and a friend. 
However, I did have a few issues with the book.   It was first published in 1940, and as you might expect, some of the attitudes toward other racial groups are not what they are today and some of the references to native peoples is occasionally tinged with racism, though it isn't constant.  And though Osa states repeatedly that she and Martin are primarily photographers interested in recording animals and are appalled by big-game hunters who merely want trophies, she does discuss instances in which animals get shot, though it's always for food, or in self-defense.  It's probably hypocritical of me to be uncomfortable about this, as I'm not a vegetarian.  Martin and Osa were concerned even back in the 1920s about endangered species, but there's quite a few instances of shooting animals.

The writing in this book isn't what I'd call great -- Osa has kind of a gee-whiz style, not what I'd call lyrical or beautiful.  I wish she'd been more specific about dates, though they're not altogether left out.  Also, the end of the book felt rather rushed, and it just sort of stops.  There's a copy of a news article at the end which explains why, but I still felt a bit unsatisfied.  This book isn't a beautiful, lyrical example of travel writing, but overall, it's very entertaining if you can ignore some of the outdated attitudes of that time period. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

So -- just back from vacation, where I did actually have time to get some reading done, what with long flights, layovers, and jet lag.  I can hardly go on a vacation without a big fat Victorian novel, and this time I read Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the queen of the Victorian sensation novel.

Set in the 1850s, this is the story of the Aurora Floyd, who is young, spoiled, and rich.  Her father is a wealthy banker who fell in love late in life with -- gasp! -- a beautiful actress from a poor family.  Knowing a good thing when she saw it, Eliza Prodder married rich Archibald Floyd, nearly 20 years her senior.  However, they seemed genuinely happy despite all the sneering from the rich neighbors, but sadly, Eliza died in childbirth after just a year of marriage, leaving behind the eponymous Aurora Floyd and her doting but bereaved father.

Fast-forward seventeen years -- Aurora is beautiful, spoiled and used to getting her own way.  After some naughty behavior, she's shipped off to school in France.  She returns home after a year, looking poorly.  There are hints of some secrets -- is she being secretly blackmailed?  However, Aurora perks up eventually and is joined by her sweet cousin Lucy as a companion during the Season of balls during which all young ladies are essentially on the marriage market.  Two potential suitors stand out -- Talbot Bulstrode, the proud heir of a long line of aristocrats who is short in cash; and John Mellish, a blustering but lovable Yorkshire squire.  Both fall in love with Aurora, and at first it seems like Bulstrode is the lucky winner, though Lucy is secretly in love with him and pining away.

However, there's trouble in paradise.  A few months after their engagement, Talbot learns from a cousin that Aurora ran away from school and was MIA.  Suspicious, he confronts her, but she refuses to reveal her secret, and he breaks off the engagement.  Eventually, she marries Mellish, who promises never to ask her secrets and love her and trust her no matter what.  Of course, this promise comes back to haunt him when a handsome groom named James Conyers comes to work for her husband.  His appearance throws everything into turmoil, and that's when the book really gets rolling.

This book had a lot of great elements to it -- a strong heroine with flashing dark eyes, two men competing for her hand in marriage, blackmail, scandal, gossip, a detective -- it's a classic Victorian sensation novel.  A couple of years ago, I read Lady Audley's Secret by the same author, and loved it.  It's the second book I've read by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.  Aurora Floyd has a lot of the same themes, but I felt liked it dragged a little in comparison.  There's an omniscient narrator that editorializes a bit too much for my taste.  I did find some of the plot points pretty obvious, and the author definitely depends on the deus ex machina as a too-convenient plot savior more than once.  Overall, though, I'm accepting this book as a product of its time -- Mary Elizabeth Braddon was pretty groundbreaking as a Victorian author, not just as a woman author.  She wrote more than 80 novels, which is impressive for any author, during any time period.  Most of them are out of print but a lot of them are available for free on Gutenberg.org.

I'm counting this as my Classic by a Woman Author for The Back to the Classics Challenge.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Vacation Sneak Peek

Going on a pretty wonderful vacation tomorrow.  Here's what I'm going to see:

And eat lots of this:

And of course, plenty of this:

Yes, those ARE giant mountains of gelato.  

Yep, I'm going back to Italy!!  A week in Rome, but this time we're bringing the kids.  But less books than last year -- I packed SIX books, of which I only finished three (plus I downloaded an ebook on my husband's iPad).  That was waaaay too many (my suitcase was small but heavy; my husband was a saint and didn't say a word).  This year, I'm only allowing myself three, plus we're sharing a Kindle and the iPad.  

I had to pack at least one Italian book:

And I'm also bringing a Victorian novel described as "a ripping good yarn":

I don't plan on taking a two-month break from blogging before my next post!  Ciao!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

After nearly two months, I've finally completed The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.   For the past few years, I've been trying to work my way through all of Dickens' novels.  This is the penultimate novel on my list; now, I'm only missing The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  

For those who don't know, this is a picaresque tale about Mr. Moses Pickwick, a financially comfortable gentlemen of a certain age, and his three friends (Tupman, Winkle, and Snodgrass) and their adventures and misadventures as they travel around England in the 1820s.  Along the way, Pickwick hires a young manservant, Sam Weller, who in my opinion is the real star of the novel -- frankly, I wish the book was entirely about Sam. 

Published in 1837, it is Charles Dickens' first novel, which began as loosely related comic stories.  Originally, they publishers wanted them written to accompany illustrations of hunting sketches in a monthly magazine.  The stories began to evolve and eventually became a more cohesive novel.  It's interesting to see the transition from vignettes to an actual narrative story with a plot, but honestly, the first third or so were kind of a slog.  After about 200 pages it really began to pick up, but I was tempted a few times to just give up altogether.

I was glad I stuck with it, because it really is worth reading.  Comic characters and caricatures are really Dickens' strength -- this is all the funny bits of Dickens, without the melodrama and the drippy ingenues.  There are some truly hilarious parts in this novel.  Pickwick and his friends get into all kinds of scrapes, and it takes the quick-thinking, streetwise Sam to get them out of trouble.  Apparently Pickwick and Sam are sort of a British version of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.  

Pickwick took a lot longer to complete than I expected.  I listened to nearly all of it on audiobook, and at one point, I had to take a break, because it was starting to drag.  The first third kind of meandered, though there were a few bright moments.  This is one of the few classics on my to-read list that the library owns on audiobook, and it's 25 discs, more than 32 hours total.  My commute to work is about 15 minutes, so unless I go out for lunch or have to drive to another library branch for a meeting, it takes me almost three days to get through a single disc.  Also, I took a break for about a week to listen to Mary Poppins.  (I did read other books in print -- during the time it took me to listen to this audiobook, I finished reading about twelve other novels.  I'm not joking.)

One thing I didn't care much for was the occasional digressions Dickens takes into stories and tales told within the novel, which really just seemed like filler.  I don't know if Dickens was close to his deadline and needed more words, or if they were actually part of the original plan, but some of them really dragged.  The only one I really liked was Chapter 29, "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton," which I found interesting because it seemed like an early version of A Christmas Carol.

There are also hints of future Dickens in the narrative, including long-term residents of debtors' prison, like in Little Dorrit, plus the biting satire of the court system in Bleak House.  Dickens also gets some good digs about lawyers.  I'm glad I finished it, but because it's sort of uneven, I don't think I'd count it among my favorite Dickens works -- it's definitely above Hard Times and Dombey and Son but not nearly as good as Oliver Twist and Bleak House.

I'm counting this as my Very Long Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley

"Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from the High Mass.

The Towers of Trebizond has been on my to-read shelf since 2007.  It popped up on some classic book list, possibly The Guardian's list of 1000 Books Everyone Must Read (it's one of the 100 Comedies -- I've read 37 so far).  Plus I really liked the cover of the NYRB Classic edition, above, so I bought my own copy which promptly gathered dust for about seven years until I picked it up the other day.

Published in 1956, this is ostensibly a humorous tale about some unlikely companions traveling around Turkey -- the narrator, Laurie, who is a companion and assistant to her widowed Aunt Dot as she embarks on a journey which is part research for a travel book, part missionary work to convert infidels to the Church of England, and part social work to empower women in a highly traditional and sexist culture. They're accompanied by an Anglican priest, Father Chantry-Pigg, and aunt Dot's nameless camel.  

It's quirky and the wit is mostly very dry:

It is not, therefore, strange that we should have inherited a firm and tenacious adherence to the Church of our country.  With it has come down to most of us a great enthusiasm for catching fish.  Aunt Dot maintains that this propensity is peculiarly Church of England; she has perhaps made a slight confusion between the words Anglican and angling.  To be sure the French fish even more, as I sometimes point out, and to be sure, the pre-Reformation monks fished greatly. "Mostly in fish-ponds," said Aunt Dot.  "Very unsporting, and only for food." 

After a time, the group ends up separating and Laurie spends much of the trip alone with the camel.  There are a lot of funny observations, but Laurie does a lot of soul-searching about the nature of love and religion -- a lot of the book discusses the differences between the different sects of the Church of England, not to mention the Roman Catholic church and Islam.  There's a lot of discussion about the plight of women in Turkey and whether they can be emancipated and empowered.  Laurie is actually an agnostic, and spends a lot of time pondering about the nature of religion.  This book spends a LOT of time discussing religion.  Parts of it are satirical, including some digs at Billy Graham, but some of it is just thoughtful.  

There were parts of the book I found delightful and quirky, and there are a lot of lovely travelogue-y bits when Laurie travels on her own through Turkey on the back of the camel, mostly in places where she can barely speak Turkish and few of the locals speak English.  Still, she gets by quite well, which is surprising for a woman traveling on her own in a Moslem country in the 1950s.  But the end of the book turns quite serious and I did find the ending very melancholy.  I went back and read the introduction of the book after I'd finished, and it was easy to see how some of the events in the book were inspired by author Rose Macauley's own life.   

This book was extremely popular in the late 1950s when it was published -- apparently people went around quoting the famous first line.  I do think that it is definitely a product of its time -- there are some parts in this book that definitely made me uncomfortable, which  some readers could find very offensive.  However, I do think it was satirizing many religions, not just Islam.   

I'm counting this as my Forgotten Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Anthony Trollope Bicentennial Celebration: Sign Up Here!

In exactly two months, on April 24, it will be the 200th anniversary of Anthony Trollope's birth.  In honor of one of my favorite writers, I'm hosting a month-long celebration of his life and work.  Here is where you can sign up to participate.  I've never hosted anything like this before, but I'm planning on posting weekly round-ups of anything relating to Trollope, awarding prizes (for U.S. and international bloggers) and reading as much Trollope as I can squeeze into a single month.  If you're interested, you can link any postings related to Trollope.  It could be a book review of one of his many novels, TV adaptations, or you could just ruminate about anything Trollope-related.  

Who's with me? Sign up with the Linky below!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Liza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham

Liza of Lambeth is the first novel published by W. Somerset Maugham, in 1897.  I've been a big fan of Maugham's work ever since I read Of Human Bondage as a freshman in college, so I thought Liza would be a good choice for my Classic Novella selection for the Back to the Classics Challenge. (It also counts towards the Reading England Challenge). 

This is the story of Liza Kemp, a young woman of about eighteen or twenty who lives in Vere Street in Lambeth, a neighborhood of London.  Liza is pretty and spirited, and she doesn't seem very satisfied with her life.  She lives with her widowed mother, who seems to do nothing but drink and complain about her rheumatism, and her boyfriend Tom bores her.  At the beginning of the story, it's a beautiful day in August, and the neighbors are hanging around outside when an organ player wanders down the street.  Spontaneous dancing breaks out as Liza is walking home in a new dress, and she joins in.  The sight of Liza dancing in that new dress catches the eye of a new neighbor, Jim Blakeston, who changes Liza's life forever.  He's married, with a houseful of children, and he's old enough to be her father.  But Jim is so different than her boyfriend, Liza starts a relationship with him that sends her on a downward spiral.  

It's quite short, only 137 pages, and one could easily read it in a day or possibly even a single sitting, but I had to put it down a few times because I did find the story quite depressing. It's quite obvious to the reader that this isn't going to end well, and it doesn't.  Maugham was working as a doctor in working-class London at the time he wrote the book, and it struck me that he must have seen many girls  like Liza. 

It was a little difficult to read because all the characters speak in a dialect which I can only assume was Cockney. (Please feel free to correct me in the comments I'm incorrect.) Though the story is well written, and the characters are well developed, I can't say I really recommend it because I found it so sad.  I did appreciate it as fan of Maugham, but I can't say I'd ever want to read it again.  I've read The Painted Veil and Up at the Villa several times but Liza of Lambeth won't be on my list of favorites. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold M. Packer

My fascination with Victorian writers has expanded to overlap with my love of non-fiction -- I find it so interesting to read the actual history that was going on during my favorite literary period.  I found Victoria's Daughters at one of the library sales a couple of years ago for a mere $1.  After the debacle of my last so-called nonfiction read, I needed some actual history to cleanse my reading palate.  Though it isn't nearly as scholarly as I expected, it was still a fascinating read. 

Queen Victoria had nine children over a period of seventeen years, and five of them were girls: Victoria, the Princess Royal (known as Vicky), Alice, Helena (known as Lenchen), Louise, and Beatrice (she eventually had forty grandchildren).  Though not nearly as well documented as their famous mother, this is still a very interesting insight into the lives of the Queen's household, how European royalty was intertwined through marriage, and the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. 

There are also some hints about the background of World War I, since Victoria's oldest daughter (also named Victoria and known as Vicky) married the oldest son of the German Emperor, and was the mother of William the Second of Germany, also known as Kaiser Wilhelm.  When Germany and England were at war, royal cousins were fighting on both sides.  

Basically, it was the duty of Queen Victoria's daughters to make brilliant marriages:  her second daughter Alice also married a German prince, Louis of Hesse (her daughter Alix married Nicholas of Russia, the final Tsar); her fourth daughter Louise married a future Scottish Duke; the other two daughters, Helen and Beatrice, also married minor German princes.  Well, the youngest daughter finally married at 28, even though Victoria was initially furious at the idea of her youngest daughter marrying at all -- it was her duty to stay with her mother for her entire life.  Beatrice was 17 years younger than Victoria and only four years old when her father Prince Albert died, so Beatrice spent her entire life taking care of her mother.  Eventually Queen Victoria agreed to her marriage, but only on the condition that Beatrice and her husband live with the Queen and Beatrice continue to act as her unofficial secretary.  

Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter, in her wedding dress.

This was a really interesting book -- lots of history, several scandals, and much of it was quite tragic.  Hemophilia ran in the family, and besides Queen Victoria's son Leopold, some of the grandsons were also hemophiliac and died young.  The second daughter, Alice, died of diphtheria which she contracted while nursing her own children, one of whom had also just died during the same outbreak.

Princess Alice, the second of Queen Victoria's daughters.
I did have a few quibbles -- there weren't nearly enough photos, considering how many people are included in the book.  Also, though there's an excellent chart showing the immediate family tree (which runs horizontally across a two-page spread, so I was constantly turning the book sideways) I really wish the author had included a map or two.  There are a lot of references to various royal houses, palaces, and castles, and I'm a visual person, so I would have liked some geographical layout.  Also, a map of all the German kingdoms of the time would have been helpful -- four of the daughters married German princes, and there was a lot of traveling in the book back and forth between England and Germany.  

The writing in this book was pretty accessible, though a bit clunky at times.  Packard has this tendency to end sections with heavy foreshadowing and dramatic flourish, as though he were writing cliffhangers.  A lot.  For example:

From those earliest years, the little girl stored up constant approbation, in reserve for the day when she would turn it disastrously loose in her adult life.  (Cue ominous music).  Or how about:

Only a fiend could have predicted that such bliss would, starting in a few weeks, begin to turn to choking dust.

I also noticed that Packard had a tendency to editorialize instead of just presenting the facts and allowing the reader to form an opinion.  For example, after the death of Beatrice's husband, there was a rift between Beatrice and her sister Louise: 

Probably no family row would have occurred if [Louise] hadn't let her mouth get ahead of her brain when Liko's death was reported while the family was at Osborne. . . . It was a stupid and careless thing for one sister to tell another under the circumstances, and understandably, for a time it badly strained relations between Louise and Beatrice.

I'm sure that after spending years researching a subject for a book, a writer couldn't help but form opinions about them one way or another, but I did find a few of the comments a bit over the top.  Perhaps by merely including a quote the reader can come to his or her own conclusion about the stupid things that siblings say to each other.  

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book.  I also have several other books about Victorian history on the to-read pile, and some more royal biographies.  My book group is reading Helen Rappaport's The Romanov Sisters in a few months, and I'm also really looking forward to that one.  Bloggers, which books about Victorian history do you recommend?  Which royal biographies? 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Modoc: the True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer

I had high hopes for this book -- what's not to love about elephants?  And the "true story" of an amazing elephant and his lifelong friendship with a trainer?  Well, it would be amazing, if it were, in fact, all true.  But sadly, not so much.

This book out pretty interesting, with a fairly good narrative.  Basically, it's the story of a young boy, Bram, who was raised with a circus elephant, and spent most of his life with her throughout fantastic events -- both wonderful and tragic -- around the globe.  There are ocean voyages, a shipwreck, mystical encounters in faraway lands, bandits, benevolent royalty, wars -- you name it.

But as I read this amazing narrative -- complete with dialogue, which is always slightly suspect in a book that's reporting elements of years ago -- I was slightly put off by the writing and its insider knowledge of people's thoughts and feelings.  And a lot of the events are so fantastic that they just don't ring true.  Plus, this story is oddly lacking in concrete details.  For starters, the date of this miraculous birth is never mentioned -- not even the year!  The reader can only assume that it is sometime in the early part of the 20th century.  In fact, there's not an actual date mentioned in the entire book.  The more I read this book, the more it started to feel like a fable or fantastic folk tale, not nonfiction.

Since I am a curious person (and because I spend far too much time surfing the internet) after I finished the book, I began Googling for actual facts.  It quickly became obvious that Ralph Helfer studied at the James Frey School of Nonfiction Writing -- that is, playing pretty fast and loose with the facts.  Modoc seems like an amalgamation of a lot of different stories, different elephants, etc.

If Helfer had just said the story was inspired by actual events, I might have bought it -- the story, though flawed and over-the-top, would probably have found some satisfied readers.  But the fact that he's trying to pass this as a TRUE STORY is just so irritating, it's really taken away from the experience of reading the book. (The fact that it is listed as nonfiction by the library is just eye-rolling).

I really need to be a little more discerning when I choose nonfiction.  I did take another look at the Goodreads reviews for the rest of the books on my TBR Pile Challenge List, which is all nonfiction, and it seems like those that aren't memoirs are fairly respected -- there are obviously some aren't necessarily universally loved, but they actually have footnotes, indices, and/or bibliographies.

Memoirs are another story altogether.  If an author states at the beginning, that basically, this is how I remember this incident, or that certain characters or events may have been combined, I might be forgiving.  How can someone remember an entire conversation years later?  It's different than if they're quoting a print document like a letter.  Essentially, the reader has to assume that this is the writer's memory (or interpretation) of certain events.  Looking back on my TBR Pile Challenge list, I realized that exactly half of these books are essentially memoirs or opinions.

As I've mentioned, I've been reading a lot more nonfiction in the past few years -- maybe this also means I need to be more selective.  Does the popularity of nonfiction also mean an increase in thinly veiled fiction?  (And is it really more popular, or do I just think so because I've finally embraced nonfiction?)  Bloggers, how discriminating are you about your nonfiction?  Are there any "true stories" that you later found out weren't completely accurate?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War by Alan Allport

The other day, I was working at the circulation desk at the library, and a patron returned a book that I really want to read, River of Doubt by Candice Millard.  When I asked how he liked it, he seemed a little dismissive.  "Well, I have a Ph.D in history," he said, basically implying that the book wasn't particularly academic in nature.  Now, I have been reading more and more nonfiction the past few years, and I even started a book group at my branch that reads only nonfiction.  I'm finding nonfiction to be better written and more accessible than ever before.  It never occurred to me that this could be considered a bad thing.  

However, my most recent nonfiction book was all of the above -- well-written, accessible, AND academic.  Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War by Alan Allport is a fascinating read about the lives of British soldiers (and to a lesser extent, civilians) during the period immediately after WWII, when millions of men returned home during peacetime after the war.  

I must admit I knew next to nothing about this when I started -- everything I know about postwar Britain is from TV series like Call the Midwife.  I did realize that food and gas rationing went on for years, but I am sure to me, and many others, people think about the soldiers returning home to ticker tape parades, kissing nurses in the streets, like the iconic Life magazine photo.

The book isn't terribly long, about 225 pages of narrative of text, but it's packed with information.  Here are a few facts that I learned:
  • Logistically, returning soldiers home was complicated.  It took months, even stretching to years for some of the British military.  It takes a long time to get that many people from one place to another.  (If you've ever been on a cruise, you know how long it takes people to get OFF the ship.  Try multiplying that exponentially.) 
  • Because of the bombings and destruction on the home front, many civilians felt that they'd had an equally bad time than the soldiers who were fighting, or even worse.  Many of them resented the returning soldiers.  Soldiers were also shocked at the rationing and destruction once they'd returned.
  • And of course, the issues of the mental health of many of the returning soldiers.  I know there are infinitely more resources for returning veterans now, but it's shocking how bad it was after World War II. 
This book was extremely interesting and well-organized.  In the introduction, Allport explains that this book was originally an academic thesis (it's published by the Yale University Press). Compared to most of the nonfiction I've been reading the last few years, Demobbed is definitely written in a more formal style than some of the nonfiction that I find on the library shelves, but it's still very accessible.  I really enjoyed this book, especially compared to the disappointment of the previous book I read from my TBR Pile Challenge 2015 list.  I highly recommend it for anyone who's interested in the postwar period. 

I still own two more nonfiction works about post-war Britain on the TBR shelves: Millions Like Us by Virginia Nicholson and Our Hidden Lives by Simon Garfield.  Bloggers, have any of you read either of these?  And what other books about WWII and postwar Britain do you recommend?