Austerity Britain

One of the bonuses of recovering from surgery is that there’s plenty of time to read. When I collected David Kynaston’s Austerity Britain, the librarian asked if I planned to read every page. “Absolutely” I said. And now I have. It’s 700 pages, an “intimate, multilayered, multivoiced unsentimental portrait” of Britain from 1945-51. It covers a wide range of sources, meticulously recorded in 35 closely printed pages of notes. There are snippets from Joan Bakewell, George Orwell, Kenneth Tynan, Kingsley Amis – but also unknown diarists, and the careful testimony of recorders from Mass Observation. Kynaston doesn’t settle for easy generalisations, but he does have an eye for detail, and he knows how things have changed: “Britain in 1945. No supermarkets, no motorways, no teabags, no sliced bread, no frozen food, no flavoured crisps, no lager, no microwaves, no Formica, no vinyl;  no CDs, no computers, no mobiles, no duvets, no Pill, no trainers, no hoodies, no Starbucks.”