If you've visited my website before you'll know that last year I researched an ebook based on a diary kept by my father during WWII. I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety: The Diary of a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II was published as an ebook in the Amazon Kindle Store in October 2012 almost 70 years to the day since my dad joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. Lots of readers have downloaded it and some have been so kind as to write a review.
Certainly if you're lucky enough to have been left an old diary by someone in your family it will be a treasure chest for family history.
I read a fantastic book based on a diary recently: From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822 transcribed and explained by Mary Hope Monnery.
I've written about this book elsewhere on other blogs but it is so good I want to tell you about it here as well.
Mary Hope Monnery has done a fantastic job in bringing this old diary of one of her ancestors into the public domain. It must have been incredibly hard work to transcribe it but very rewarding at the same time. It has little or no punctuation and Ms. Monnery has published it deliberately as written and it is amazing that once you get used to the writing style the lack of punctuation doesn't affect your understanding of the text at all.
It is however quite difficult to read because of all the gaps in Eliza's record of the past; Eliza Blunt wasn't writing for us: she was writing for herself and possibly for her lover. Consequently you have to use your imagination at times to try and make sense of developments and here Ms. Monnery comes to our aid with lots of helpful annotations at the end of each chapter.
The diary contains a wealth of fascinating detail about daily life in the early nineteenth century. The range of Eliza's purchases and the prices she pays is remarkable; the amount of time it took to sail from Trincomalee to Portsea (5 months!) and the quantity of fresh livestock carried on the ship and butchered regularly truly amazing; the huge significance of washing day and the hard work it entailed beggars belief; and the relationship between Eliza and the Royal Navy on whom she was dependent for her pension is as relevant to-day as it was then.
She actually records a visit to the theatre to see Edmund Keane in Richard III!
In addition the diary records a love story that is passionate and turbulent. Eliza was marrried when she went to Trincomalee (in present day Sri Lanka) but her husband died shortly after their arrival. While waiting to return to England with her family she meets and falls in love with another and the feeling is mutual. She manages to sustain her love for many months without any contact at all with the man of her affections and pours out her feelings in an extrordinary stream of consciousness style to her diary. You wonder if you're going to find out what happens: and you do but I'm not going to tell you. A wonderful romance!
This a most unusual book: fascinating, intriguing, packed with information. For anyone who enjoys family history it's a real gem.
You can sample and download "From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822" at Amazon UK and Amazon USA.
Meanwhile I'm on a search for information to understand a diary kept by by mum in 1947; she was just nineteen years old at the time and Britain was plunged deep into post-war austerity and the worst winter that had ever been recorded. It was also the year that my husband Michael Murray was born - but that's for another day!
What better way to start off a new blog than by introducing a new family history memoir published in the Kindle store just a couple of days ago.
Written by actor Chris Saul-Smith the book is a transcript of interviews he tape recorded with his Grandmother in 1969 when he was a drama student and she was in her early seventies.
Chris is a friend of my husband, Michael Murray, who has been encouraging Chris to publish his grandma's memoir as an ebook for several months. Publication day finally arrived on Saturday and we were delighted to download the book and be the first to write a review of it.
This is what we wrote about Florence "Flo" Smith Now and Then:
My mother-in-law embarked on writing her memoir in her mid-eighties and it promised to be a fascinating document. Sadly she was unable to finish it through lack of mental stamina and we did not have the foresight to tape record it for her.
Fortunately, Chris Saul-Smith did have the prescience to tape record his grandmother’s account of her life. The result is an incredibly compelling document which chronicles the years from the end of the nineteenth century to the late 1960s from the perspective of an ordinary, working class Londoner.
Having read this wonderful memoir in its original paper version, we are delighted that it has been published as an ebook. The author was a drama student in 1969 when he interviewed his grandmother, taped her reminiscences and subsequently transcribed them for his college dissertation.
Grandmother was the Florence “Flo” Smith of the title and she was in her early seventies at the time. Apart from the introduction and a short end-piece, the words are Flo’s. She recounts her Edwardian childhood; the ups and downs of family life, love and marriage; her experiences of two world wars and the grinding poverty of the 1930s. The memoir ends with her reflections on the present day as she saw it in 1969.
Flo’s observations are fascinating and her authentic voice resonates throughout the transcript. Her insights, descriptions and explanations are incisive, at times witty and always full of interest. Her comments are particularly pertinent to understanding the role of women as daughters, wives and workers during that era. This book is an absolute gem for anyone with an interest in family memoirs and the social history of the twentieth century.
Florence “Flo” Smith – Now and Then is available to download in the Amazon Kindle Store.
I'm a former primary school head teacher now enjoying family history, e-publishing and gardening. I'm the author of "Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood" and was delighted when the book became an Amazon 2015 bestseller in the Social History category. I'm the founder of Spurwing Ebooks which is at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com for book details and information about new releases and special offers. Details of my books are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-Murray/e/B009R7CRVC and the other books I've published are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Murray/e/B007AQZMZK