book cover

Our Hidden Lives by Simon Garfield

About the book

1936 anthropologist Tom Harrison, poet and journalist Charles Madge, and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings set up the Mass Observation Project. The idea was simple: ordinary people would record, in diary form, the events of their everyday lives. An estimated one million pages eventually found their way to the archive – and it soon became clear this was more than anyone could digest. Today, the diaries are stored at the University of Sussex, where remarkably most remain unread. In Our Hidden Lives, Simon Garfield has skilfully woven a tapestry of diary entries in the rarely discussed but pivotal period of 1945 to 1948. The result is a moving, intriguing, funny, at times heartbreaking book – unashamedly populist in the spirit of Forgotten Voices or indeed Margaret Forster’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman.

Reviewed by The Benches Reading Group:

Difficult book to review as contribution written by several people. Interesting insight into the lives of five diarists during the latter years of the 1940s – depressing times after six years of war in Europe. Took quite a long time to ‘get into’ the book and for the characters to develop. Needed much concentration – enjoyable read on the whole.

Star rating: ***

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