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Love and War in London: The Mass Observation Wartime Diary of Olivia Crockett - Olivia Cockett

"LOVE AND WAR IN LONDON: The Mass Observation Wartime Diary of Olivia Cockett" is a fascinating story about a remarkable woman who provides an interesting view of the home front in Great Britain between 1939 and 1942.


The Mass Observation (MO) Program began in Britain in the late 1930s in which members of the general public were invited to record their experiences and thoughts in diary form and share their diaries (via regular installments sent by post) with MO. The MO program, in turn, would solicit its members during the Second World War with questionnaires, seeking their views of the war, their changing or altered lifestyles because of the war, and the kind of postwar Britain they would like to see. These diaries and questionnaires are now part of the MO archives in Sussex, England.


The format of this book gives the reader ready access into the life of Olivia Cockett - who was working for New Scotland Yard when the war began in September 1939. She had, at this point, been a government employee for about 10 years. She was almost 27 years old, living with her parents, and in a relationship with a married man who was 17 years her senior (Bill Hole). In their case, the passion Olivia and Bill had for each other began the moment they first laid eyes on each other several years earlier. It was a POWERFUL AND IMMEDIATE sexual and emotional attraction they felt towards each other. As one can well imagine, it wasn't easy for them to arrange meetings.


As someone who keeps a diary himself, I was utterly fascinated with this book. Olivia Cockett was a woman who knew her own mind and was unafraid to speak plainly and truthfully about her own feelings and beliefs. [There are photos in the book of Olivia, Bill Hole, and of her neighborhood in wartime London.]


For anyone interested in understanding the home front aspect of everyday life during the Second World War, I highly recommend "Love and War in London." Besides, when you read a book like this, the past does not seem remote or dead. But living, vital, and real, knowing that Olivia Cockett and the people with whom she worked, associated, and lived were as alive and experiencing the joys and stresses of life as we now are --- albeit in an era very different than today.