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!
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