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1940s Society Shop >  History >  Book Reviews >  The War and Uncle Walter

The War and Uncle Walter

The wartime diaries of Walter Musto. A fascinating insight into day to day life during WW2.


The War and Uncle Walter - The Diary of an Eccentric
Written By Art McCulloch

The War and Uncle Walter - The Diary of an Eccentric

Because of my interest in Wartime Britain I read quite a lot of books on Britain’s Home Front. They tend to cover various aspects of the subject, be it a particular period in time, such as ‘the battle of Britain’ or a particular area of interest, such as the ‘Home Guard’. What I found of interest in this book was its very general and personal nature. Indeed much of the book has little to do directly with the war, discussing instead the state of other things important to the writer. The book gives you a glimpse into the innermost thoughts of a man living through this most fascinating of periods.

The War and Uncle Walter is a diary which was written by Walter Musto from January 1939 to May 1945 and having recently been discovered by a relative it has been published for us all to enjoy. As the books subtitle suggests, Walter could certainly be described as a ‘character’ or ‘eccentric’. He had a passion for his garden which as time went on changed from the growing of flowers to the growing of fresh vegetables. These he often tended in various weather conditions while totally naked. Being a government inspector Walter spent much of his time on buses and trains while visiting various parts of the country and often used this time to write his diary, which covered a diverse range of subjects from observations of those around him to poetry and literature. It also covered his personal circumstances which included his firewatching experiences and his share of personal tragedies.

‘The War and Uncle Walter’ is certainly a different kind of book from the more ‘traditional’ Wartime Britain books that you may have on your bookshelf. It is however a book which I enjoyed and that does give a personal insight into the day to day life of an ageing middle class civil servant who does his best to do his bit for the war effort. I can’t help wondering what Walter would have actually been like to talk to and what he would have thought about his diary being published for all the world to read. I think he would have been amused.
I liked the way the authors have used the diary’s, letters and memoirs together and you really feel you get to know the people involved and even get closer to them as you read on. Ordinary folk like us but living through an extraordinary time and most coming through it and at last getting a chance to tell their stories and share their feelings with the reader. What I felt most of all as I read was that you got the whole picture, nasty bits and all, it’s not a book where the author(s) had ‘trimmed off all the fat and just put in the bits they liked. It’s a book you can pick up anytime as each chapter doesn’t drag on but does leave you chomping at the bit for the next one. Saying that, I found it rather unputdownable. Along with some great pictures this really is a must read book for anyone who has an interest in the war years, 1940’s or peoples people and richly deserves the title Finest Hour.

A thoroughly good read from front to back.

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