The View from the Corner Shop: The Diary of a Yorkshire Wartime Shop Assistant, Kathleen Hey (Simon & Schuster, April 2016, £7.99), edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson.
The MO diary of Kathleen Hey gives a rare insider’s view of everyday life in wartime Yorkshire. As a shop assistant in a working-class district of Dewsbury, Kathleen wrote vividly of the stresses and complex exchanges in a grocery shop – from both sides of the counter. She wrote of her regular customers (and close neighbours) and their quirks – she often saw them almost daily – and the shop conversations that she overheard or took part in. Supplies were unpredictable, rationing rules were confusing to some customers, bending the rules became rooted in daily life, and grumbles were commonplace.
While shop-work and food are at the heart of her diary, Kathleen also wrote about leisure, popular culture, local events, family tensions (she worked for her brother-in-law), and her personal pleasures and private hopes for the future. Hers is an observant, wide-ranging and sometimes amusing account of wartime social life.
Patricia and Robert Malcolmson have edited three volumes of Nella Last’s diary plus half a dozen MO diaries for various record societies (including London, Surrey, Dorset, and Bedfordshire). They are also authors of Women at the Ready: The Remarkable Story of the Women’s Voluntary Services on the Home Front (Abacus paperback, 2014).