Social Change And Community
War Babies by Annie Murray is a marvelous epic novel set in Birmingham during the 1930’s and the war years. It is a novel of a community – people “did not have much money, but they knew how to make a home.” A home is not about money, a home is about love. At times there can be more love found in a slum than a mansion.
There is a surprising amount of snobbery to found among some of the poor. It is character and the state of the heart that is the measure of a person not the size of their bank account.
Women and children are the main focus of the novel. The women had it tough. World War I had robbed some of them of husbands and fathers. A flu epidemic then stole their loved ones. World War II pinched the able bodied for war. The women bandied together, supported each other and survived.
Children were a community responsibility. If a child was seen to be in need, the neighbours met that need. It may only have been a slice of bread and marg but it was given lovingly.
The plight of the handicapped is shown. It was an awful time of shunning the different and locking them away in institutions. The love, care and commitment of a mother to stand up for her child is beautiful and unbreakable. In contrast there are some harsh, cruel and uncaring mothers.
War changes people. Soldiers saw unthinkable horrors. They could not talk about it for years, if ever. Husbands returned changed and broken. Wives were not the same in 1945 as in 1939, they had become tougher and more capable, having struggled alone through the war years. Children saw fathers for the first time in years. Post World War II certainly bought a new set of challenges.
War Babies was a fabulous book. As a historian it was fascinating to read about the social change. As a native of Birmingham I loved the familiar locations. I really cannot get enough of Annie Murray’s books. She is the latest of my favourite authors.