Home Fires, Week 2

Welcome to Week 2 of the Online Book Club discussion of Home Fires by Julie Summers. 

How did you like the first chapters of the book? Are you enjoying learning all the facts about the Women's Institute? I'm enjoying learning the facts, but I wish there were more of a narrative so I could follow the story of just one or two main characters. I am having a hard time keeping up with the names of all the characters!

The first couple pages mentioned the song "Jerusalem." I had never heard of that song, and it seemed important to the women, so I decided to do a little research. The Conversation UK describes the history of the song and provides a video from Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, where it was one of the hymns. 

I enjoyed some of the historical information shared in the first chapters. I thought it was so interesting to read some of the diary entries and see how the women shared information about the war so casually in their entries. For example, at the end of the second chapter, Edith Jones wrote, "[B]ombs fell on Chelmick [7 miles away] on Monday 7th. White washed the pantry." I couldn't believe how she wrote about bombs falling, something that I would have a really hard time getting over, but then also shared that she was able to keep up with regular life and just whitewash her pantry. In another passage (in the first chapter of the book, but near the end of the war), she recounted her time at her Women's Institute meeting and wrote that Rome was captured in the next sentence. It astounds me that these women were so brave and could almost take the war in stride.

The book noted that some of the women were participating in Mass Observation, a social research organization that used volunteers to record everyday life through diaries, questionnaires, and observations. The organization shut down in the 1960s, but it relaunched in 1981. Today it has a website and a podcast. I really enjoyed these historical documents that give information about air raids and how they affected children. 

Later on in the section, I was shocked to read that one of the Women's Institute librarians burned books she thought were objectionable to young girls. Did you catch that? Do you think something like that would work in today's culture?

I really enjoyed reading about the Women's Institute meetings, didn't you? The women did so many great things in their meetings, and the topics they discussed were so interesting. They knitted blankets, grew food, made garments for the Red Cross, and learned so many interesting things. I loved how the meetings brought different types of women together and helped them overcome their differences. I thought it was interesting that one woman commented that they made just two changes to the meeting schedule of events once the war started. They canceled the September meeting so they could go blackberry picking, and they added time in each meeting to talk about "kitchen front questions." I'm sure the women had to make so many kitchen changes due to the rationing, so I'm sure this "kitchen front" time was especially worthwhile. 

This section ends with a chapter about evacuees and the differences between mothers in the country and mothers in the city. What did you think of this chapter? Didn't you feel so sad for the little kids who were forced to pack up their whole lives and adjust to a completely new way of life? 

There are so many other interesting historical details that I didn't mention. What are some details that stood out to you? Did you learn any new information about the war as you were reading? I'm really interested to hear what information was most interesting to you, so please make sure to leave a comment. 

I hope you'll join us next week as we read chapters 4-6. I hope to hear from you in the comments!