Who Do You Think You Are?
Family Histories Of World War II
Survivors And Descendants Edited by Róisín Healy and Gearóid Barry Bloomsbury Academic, 256 pages, £19.99
I’m always struck by just how quickly our memories become the fabric of history, and therefore why it’s important that we share our stories with future generations. For example, my children are fascinated by my mother’s experiences of the Blitz, and by her descriptions of spending the night in an Anderson shelter.
The power of Healy and Barry’s book lies in the way the stories are told. The editors present a collection of 13 essays by contributors describing their families’ experiences of the Second World War, blending academic insight with family histories that are infused with personal memories and reflections. Importantly, they cover the conflict from a range of different viewpoints, including an account of what it was like growing up in Germany during the war and afterwards. As a result, the essays are moving and fascinating in equal measure, and can help the reader understand how the war impacted on individual lives in a way that traditional narrative histories often fail to achieve. The only criticism is that, in trying to cover so much ground, the book gives only a fleeting impression of different lives, leaving readers wanting more depth.