Housewife, 49

Not really having anything to do with Jane Austen, I write today about Housewife, 49 – which I first heard about when actress and writer Victoria Wood won a BAFTA for her role as Nella Last just about this time last year. (The show also took the best drama award.)

Housewife, 49 tells the true story of Nella Last, a woman who sent in diary entries to the Mass Observation Archive, as part of a government effort to hear the voices of the average people on the homefront. This has truly moving performances by all the actors (especially Wood; David Threlfall as her taciturn husband; Christopher Harper as their younger son), and a nicely-observed script by Wood. There is a JA connection in that Sylvestra Le Touzel, who plays Nella’s rather ferocious Mrs Lynch, played Mrs Allen in the 2007 Northanger Abbey — which book, of course, is a focal point at JASNA-Vermont’s next meeting, on June 22nd.

If you love British drama, enjoy wartime stories, and are wanting to see something very uplifting in the transformation of dear Nella over the war years, then I heartily recommend Housewife, 49. Can’t wait for the book to be returned to the library…


5 thoughts on “Housewife, 49

  1. On your recommendation, I ordered Housewife, 49 from Netflicks, and enjoyed it greatly. I liked how she journaled through her troubles. Did you also notice Daisy Haggard (Ann Steele in Sense and Sensibility 2007) as Jill? She has a smallish part, but funny.

    The woman who ran the Red Cross ladies group was a piece of work! Wow, she should have been sent to fight Hitler!!!

    Cheers, LA


  2. Another link with Sylvestra Le Touzel: she starred as Fanny in the 1983 BBC Mansfield Park, with Nicholas Farrell as Edmund, and spoke of making this movie when she participated in the “Austen actors” interview roundtable at the 2003 JASNA AGM in Winchester, England. She was so engaging that my good friend Sara, who cannot tolerate Fanny in any way, either on the page OR screen, decided that indeed Fanny might not be so bad after all!


  3. I’m really thrilled that you liked the film. I still haven’t read the book (originally published in the 1980s – the copy actress Victoria Woods had; it is out in a new edition, with its post-war continuation due out next year in the US, this fall in the UK). The person who had it checked out from the library RENEWED it, and it’s not due back ’til NEXT summer… I hate to request to have it recalled (though suspect it’s just sitting on a shelf, unopened). Have to break down and buy them both: Nella Last’s War and Nella Last’s Peace.

    Diaries (and letters) are my favorite form of biography, so if war-era diaries of Englishwomen are anything that interests you I can also recommend: Home Fires Burning: The Great War Diaries of Georgina Lee (Gavin Roynon, ed.). A fascinating diary, and a well-done edition.


  4. I just watched Housewife 49. I really enjoyed it. Even though Nella’s story took place in the thirties and forties, I couldn’t help comparing her family experiences to my mother’s and even my own. She is definitely a character that many women can identify with. I have to get the book.


  5. I truly think you will enjoy Nella Last’s War (the edited diary upon which the TV film was based) even more than the show! I’m debating – now that the pound-dollar exchange is a bit more favorable – about ordering its ‘sequel’, Nella Last’s Peace, from the UK (it isn’t available in the US until spring 2009; btw has ‘peeks’ into both volumes). Nella was a gifted and witty writer. One to put near the head of your holiday wish-list, Judith!


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