I recently finished a book about World War Two, focusing primarily on London during the Blitz, but other fine moments in England's history during that long war. I am always amazed when something manages to wake me up to the fact that WWII wasn't just GIs in bars on leave with the pretty girls, it's not just Pearl Harbor and A League of Their Own. Europe experienced a very different war than we did. Though I will in no way desire to down-play what Americans experienced, I am focusing here on what I read in All Clear, which focuses on England; their war was very different from ours.
Night after night raids plagued London. The blackout, V1's, V2's, fires, shelters, rationing, I can't even seem to explain to myself what this means to me. The reminder of what mankind has survived. What we are capable of. We can pull together and make it through seemingly horrifyingly never ending times. And London didn't see all of it, either, there was still France, the Russian front, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the list goes on and on. The wars I've lived through were very impersonal. I didn't really think about them at all. WWII wasn't like that. It hit home with Americans and Europeans alike.
The unsung heroes of the war include ambulance drivers and entertainers, women who worked while the men were away, moms that raised kids alone, people who opened their homes to those who'd lost theirs, families formed in the shelters, men and women putting out fires, digging through debris, refusing to lose hope through all the dark months and years. They were prisoners too. The human spirit never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps that's what I love about history so much. And Connie Willis has a knack for capturing that spirit. First in Doomsday Book, and now Blackout and All Clear, I truly appreciate her ability to bring those days to life for me.
I am thankful for the men and women, military and civilian alike, who fought then, and those who fight now, for the freedoms we enjoy but rarely recognize.