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Stranger in the House: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War

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A moving and revealing insight into the real experiences of women welcoming home their menfolk from the Second World War -- often after years of separation, during which their men, and the women themselves, had changed irrevocably.


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A moving and revealing insight into the real experiences of women welcoming home their menfolk from the Second World War -- often after years of separation, during which their men, and the women themselves, had changed irrevocably.

30 review for Stranger in the House: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War

  1. 5 out of 5

    KOMET

    "STRANGER IN THE HOUSE: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War" is made up of multi-layered stories spanning generations of the adjustments women in Britain had to make upon the return of their husbands or sweethearts from war. Many of these men had served in the military in places as diverse as France, Italy, India, Singapore, and Java during various stages of the war. Indeed, a large majority of these men ended up as POWs of the Germans (most of them ended up in prisoner-of "STRANGER IN THE HOUSE: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War" is made up of multi-layered stories spanning generations of the adjustments women in Britain had to make upon the return of their husbands or sweethearts from war. Many of these men had served in the military in places as diverse as France, Italy, India, Singapore, and Java during various stages of the war. Indeed, a large majority of these men ended up as POWs of the Germans (most of them ended up in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany and Poland for almost 5 years) or the Japanese. The ones who were prisoners of the Japanese suffered the worst in terms of physical and psychological abuse. Many of these stories I found deeply moving. Julie Summers is to be commended for her research into an aspect of the war and its impact on families that has been little explored by historians. It is my hope that a similar book will be written, detailing the impact of the Second World War on returning American veterans and their families.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Julie Summers has written a number of non-fiction titles about aspects of the Second World War, including Jambusters which was made into a fictional Sunday evening drama serial here in the UK with the title Home Fires. This is a book which recounts the often untold stories of women’s lives during World War Two. Julie Summers recounts these incredible stories using the words of many of the people involved. Extracts of letters and quotes from these women in old age, bring us their heart-breaking st Julie Summers has written a number of non-fiction titles about aspects of the Second World War, including Jambusters which was made into a fictional Sunday evening drama serial here in the UK with the title Home Fires. This is a book which recounts the often untold stories of women’s lives during World War Two. Julie Summers recounts these incredible stories using the words of many of the people involved. Extracts of letters and quotes from these women in old age, bring us their heart-breaking stories of loss, grief and disrupted lives. “There it was. The woman had her work cut out. Hers was to be the responsibility to create a new homely order out of the mess left behind by six years of war. She would have to be patient, caring and loving but above all practical. She would not be able to take a well-earned rest or expect to have the burden of responsibility lifted from her shoulders. One wife, now in her nineties, commented to a neighbour: ‘When their war ended, our war began.” The title of this book; Stranger in the House comes from the difficulty of men returning home after many years away in the war, lives were turned upside down. The men, who went out to war, were very often not the men who returned. It was largely the women who had to cope with these war-damaged men, keep the peace, soothe jealous, confused children, and feed men used to army rations on far more meagre stores. Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2015/...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cleopatra Pullen

    This non-fiction book takes a look at the women, be they wives, mothers, sisters or daughters who welcomed back their menfolk from the Second World War. How did these women adapt to the men who returned from battlefields or prisons? How did they begin to cope with all too apparent trauma that returned with them? Stranger in the House is a collection of reminiscences about life in the immediate aftermath of the war and of the long term consequences of readjustment. There are interviews with wives, This non-fiction book takes a look at the women, be they wives, mothers, sisters or daughters who welcomed back their menfolk from the Second World War. How did these women adapt to the men who returned from battlefields or prisons? How did they begin to cope with all too apparent trauma that returned with them? Stranger in the House is a collection of reminiscences about life in the immediate aftermath of the war and of the long term consequences of readjustment. There are interviews with wives, widows, sisters, daughters and granddaughters showing how this war cast a very long shadow indeed. Julie Summers has also raided the historical archives to give us the mother’s view – these poor women had often already lost members of their family in the First World War, how brave they must have been to send off their sons to another conflict. This is a book full of details, clearly carefully researched and full of real accounts from the women who had lived, not only through the upheaval of war itself, with sometimes many months with no idea whether their loved ones are alive or not, to the aftermath with damaged men returning to families, sometimes children who didn’t recognise their fathers and all this with severe rationing in place. “When their war ended, our war began.” Of course the men themselves had an enormous adjustment to make and it seems like those in charge had accounted for the fact that support was needed for these fractured families following the huge failings of the First World War but this concentrated on practicalities like housing rather than what was really needed which was emotional support for the men and women who had to pick up the pieces of their lives. The structure of the book is that the chapters relate to all the different subjects from the aftermath of war, communication and the variety of different relationships the women had with the men that returned from war. One of the early chapters focusses on the contrast between those men stationed where the Army Post Office were able to deliver and those who weren’t. The men and women who had received regular communication on the whole fared much better than those who hadn’t. “Letters for us stand for love, longing, light-heartedness and lyricism. Letters evoke passion, tenderness, amusement, sadness, rejoicing, surprise. And none of this is possible without the Army Post Office” Of course some of those letters told of children born while the men were away, and not all of these could be explained in the husband’s absence. These families had a whole different struggle when the men returned and the author didn’t shy away from this difficult subject. There is a particular emphasis within the book on those men who had been Japanese prisoners of war and it seems from the accounts in this book that many of these men were specifically ordered not to talk about their experience and of course these men often came back with serious medical problems to cope with too. The number of different voices, children at the time of their father’s return, who talk about rituals or issues over food and mealtimes is striking and so sad to read. The often factual accounts which are devoid of exaggeration or a wish for sympathy are all the more heart-rending because of that. It is particularly touching that the last chapter speaks to the grandchildren of these men and often these children, not bought up to avoid any talk of the war, got the men to open up for the first time to their relatives and the families heard what the men had seen and heard during the six long years of war. I don’t think I’ve read a book about war that more poignantly illustrates that for a whole generation the war was never really over.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne

    Not a book that I normally would have read but it was a selection for one of my library groups. Overall I felt it addressed an important subject and one not often discussed, especially in the UK where especially in the post-war period people just got on with life. It is obvious that what we now terms as PTSD was experienced by many soldiers and especially those who were held captive in the Far East. This wasn't the most riveting of non-fiction works and after a time the stories seemed to blend int Not a book that I normally would have read but it was a selection for one of my library groups. Overall I felt it addressed an important subject and one not often discussed, especially in the UK where especially in the post-war period people just got on with life. It is obvious that what we now terms as PTSD was experienced by many soldiers and especially those who were held captive in the Far East. This wasn't the most riveting of non-fiction works and after a time the stories seemed to blend into one another. There is also a strong emphasis upon men returning home after being POWs in the Far East, which makes sense given that it was Summers' work on that subject that elicited women writing to her about their experiences. I can't really say I enjoyed it, though felt it was a worthy effort with a tight focus. One thing that did surprise was learning details of the work done during the war by romance novelist, Barbara Cartland, who provided very down-to-earth advise to women about sexual matters. I had only known of Cartland in her later life when she seemed to resembled a confection in pink gowns writing romances where chastity prevailed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    An interesting idea for a book in an area that is not covered as well as it might be. I read passages of this to my wife and we both found ourselves at times moved at what the returned and the families went through. My only criticism is that I felt that as it was a subject that required more analysis the book itself was too short.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alicea

    Funnily enough, I read this book last even though it was the first one that Summers wrote on the subject. Stranger in the House focuses on the men returning from the war and the effects that the war and separation from hearth and home had on themselves and the women in their lives. In the early 20th century, there was no real understanding of PTSD of which many POW (especially those who were imprisoned in the Far East and worked on the Burma Thailand Railway) suffered. On average, they were only Funnily enough, I read this book last even though it was the first one that Summers wrote on the subject. Stranger in the House focuses on the men returning from the war and the effects that the war and separation from hearth and home had on themselves and the women in their lives. In the early 20th century, there was no real understanding of PTSD of which many POW (especially those who were imprisoned in the Far East and worked on the Burma Thailand Railway) suffered. On average, they were only expected to live a further 15 years because of the severity of their wounds and the maltreatment that went on for such an extended period of time. Those that lived beyond this were not considered 'lucky'. Most of the men who returned from war never again connected with their families because they were so changed and nothing of their experiences was ever discussed. Because Summers used secondhand accounts from the wives, daughters, and granddaughters coupled with primary written sources this is a unique perspective on a much discussed topic. 8/10

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clare Sole

    I liked it very much, gave me an insight as to what people went through during and after the war had finished. Also made me think alot about my great uncle who was a POW and I wish I knew more, wish I asked questions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Matychak

    Since I read a lot of WWII novels it’s good to read nonfiction as well to add context. Very thoroughly researched; very touching stories of life after the soldiers returned home after the war. Made me wish I’d asked my own parents what that was like for them.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Fascinating. An important light shone on the untold stories of the wives, mothers, girlfriends and children of soldiers, particularly prisoners of war from the Far East, when they returned home after the war.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laila

    I enjoyed reading all the stories, the experiences of both men and women after the WWII are crucial for other conflicts.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martin Willoughby

    Want to know what happens to families when the stroops come home? This is the book you need. Harrowing, but honest.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tahsin

    "When their war ended, ours began." Often, when we hear about war, we hear the voices of soldiers, of men on the front lines. In this book, we heard the voice of those left behind: their mothers, sisters, wives and children. After the war, when the men who had survived returned and met their wives and children again (for those who had them). They had become strangers to each other, and some of the children were meeting their fathers for the first time. For some, this meant they would never be clo "When their war ended, ours began." Often, when we hear about war, we hear the voices of soldiers, of men on the front lines. In this book, we heard the voice of those left behind: their mothers, sisters, wives and children. After the war, when the men who had survived returned and met their wives and children again (for those who had them). They had become strangers to each other, and some of the children were meeting their fathers for the first time. For some, this meant they would never be close to their fathers. Many fought bitterly with their fathers over who got to sleep in the bed with their mother or wife. Jealousies over her attention arose. The children were used to their mother's undivided attention and were growing up, but the men had been separated from their wives for years, and understandably wanted her time and attention too. Some men returned to and were expected to raise the illegitimate children of their wives, some left behind their own illegitimate children in Europe. Some brought them over. Almost all men left behind prostitutes or women they'd had affairs with. Many on both sides were unfaithful, but while a blind eye was given to the men, the women were condemned. Some wives felt they couldn't speak about their problems after what their husbands had gone through. I would've thought the same and yet...Perhaps suffering shouldn't be compared. At least, we should not dismiss the pain of others because some had it worse. I once heard someone say "it's like saying you can't be happy because someone has it better", and I can't help but agree. Some men returned only to be emotionally distant and even abusive fathers, especially in the case of former Japanese prisoners, due to the trauma war had wrought on them. A significant portion of this book follows these children as they grow up in broken and abusive households, and is painful to read. A painful but important read, I recommend this book to those who want to know more about what family life was like after the war

  13. 5 out of 5

    C.G.

    This was not an easy book to read - not because of the writing (which was excellent), but because of the content. Presented from all sides (wives, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and widows), Summers paints an accurate picture of what life was like for those who were waiting for their soldiers return. For some, it truly was a happy occasion, and with a few hiccups, they figured out how to make life as normal as possible. But for many - especially the FEPOWs - life would never be This was not an easy book to read - not because of the writing (which was excellent), but because of the content. Presented from all sides (wives, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and widows), Summers paints an accurate picture of what life was like for those who were waiting for their soldiers return. For some, it truly was a happy occasion, and with a few hiccups, they figured out how to make life as normal as possible. But for many - especially the FEPOWs - life would never be the same. Not only was I moved by what the women and children endured upon the return of their husbands and fathers, but I was reminded of the hell that these men endured for the cause of fighting evil. Some never came back. Some came back in body - but in spirit they would never be the same. Some came back as shells of their former selves, and only began talking about their experiences much later in life. To all of them - those who stayed at home, waiting, and those who went off to fight - I say "thank you." Summers has written a book that all should read - so we never forget.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lizzy

    Sono entrata nel trip "II Guerra Mondiale" alimentato ulteriormente dalle mie splendide vacanze sulla costa inglese del Canale della Manica dove ho avuto occasione di visitare il magnifico castello di Dover, nei cui tunnel sotterranei è stata interamente pianificata l'evacuazione delle truppe da Dunkerque. Il libro è stato comprato proprio in questa occasione e tratta il tema della smobilitazione delle truppe visto dalla parte di coloro che "aspettano" a casa: le donne. Madri, mogli e figlie cos Sono entrata nel trip "II Guerra Mondiale" alimentato ulteriormente dalle mie splendide vacanze sulla costa inglese del Canale della Manica dove ho avuto occasione di visitare il magnifico castello di Dover, nei cui tunnel sotterranei è stata interamente pianificata l'evacuazione delle truppe da Dunkerque. Il libro è stato comprato proprio in questa occasione e tratta il tema della smobilitazione delle truppe visto dalla parte di coloro che "aspettano" a casa: le donne. Madri, mogli e figlie costrette a combattere quotidianamente con le difficoltà del fronte interno alle quali si aggiunge il duro compito di "rimettere insieme i cocci" della propria vita familiare alla fine della guerra. L'impianto ha una solida base storica, ma quello che colpisce di più è la capacità dell'autrice di farci entrare in contatto con la vita di queste donne, fino a toccarci nel profondo. Uno di quegli esempi di "Storia" che io amo di più...quella delle persone, anche perché, come dice De Gregori "...è la gente che fa la Storia".

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Although there were a few places where the topics became a little unfocused, I thought this was a fascinating and moving look at the impact of the long separations in relationships endured by families as a result of WWII. There was quite a lot about the Far Eastern Prisoners of War and rightly so due to the particular impact of that experience. Having visited the excellent FEPOW exhibition and memorial at the National Arboretum, I enjoyed reading the story of how it came into being. However, the Although there were a few places where the topics became a little unfocused, I thought this was a fascinating and moving look at the impact of the long separations in relationships endured by families as a result of WWII. There was quite a lot about the Far Eastern Prisoners of War and rightly so due to the particular impact of that experience. Having visited the excellent FEPOW exhibition and memorial at the National Arboretum, I enjoyed reading the story of how it came into being. However, the stories were varied - for some families it was was simply that the mother was evacuated with the children and the father rarely saw them, for others long separations with rare and brief visits occurred as a result of non-combatant war work. Families too seem to have differed greatly in the way they dealt with awkward situations.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Thebruce1314

    Happened to come across this book at Chapters and the cover caught my eye. While I'm interested in the history of World War II, for me the most interesting and enjoyable books on the subject are those concerned with a social history of the war. How did people live their lives during that time of upheaval and uncertainty? How were lives affected by being separated, afraid and out of touch? This book dealt with exactly those aspects of the war, sharing accounts from wives, children, parents and gr Happened to come across this book at Chapters and the cover caught my eye. While I'm interested in the history of World War II, for me the most interesting and enjoyable books on the subject are those concerned with a social history of the war. How did people live their lives during that time of upheaval and uncertainty? How were lives affected by being separated, afraid and out of touch? This book dealt with exactly those aspects of the war, sharing accounts from wives, children, parents and grandchildren who were affected by their loved ones going off to fight. I particularly enjoyed the first two thirds of the book - by the time I neared the end, I was getting a little bogged down with names and relationships. However, I think this is a unique perspective on the war and an important contribution to the existing research.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    donated to The Smith Family. 20.2.15 Definitely a subject that needs to have more research & then assistance for those with PTSD after combat & for their families. Interesting that Summers has tied in the knock on generational effect which should be studied more - all countries should learn from that. I felt it could have done with serious editing and layout, as it was often confusing what family she was talking about without some form of sub-headings. While her biblio and indexing was good, felt donated to The Smith Family. 20.2.15 Definitely a subject that needs to have more research & then assistance for those with PTSD after combat & for their families. Interesting that Summers has tied in the knock on generational effect which should be studied more - all countries should learn from that. I felt it could have done with serious editing and layout, as it was often confusing what family she was talking about without some form of sub-headings. While her biblio and indexing was good, felt the absence of a list of related Organisations who help with post-combat disorders. Unrelated surprise was reading that Barbara Cartland the romance writer was in the Army helping returned service people find support services & as a counsellor. found today 8/2/2013 1 of 20 books for $10

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I love reading social histories and Julie Summers' books have become some of my favorites to read. Stranger in the House shares the everyday stories of what it was like when the men started coming home after the war. Just be prepared, as the stories are often heart-breaking.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dagrun Bennett

    A million servicemen returned home to Great Britain in 1945. Some had been away 6 years or more, and many were wounded and emotionally damaged. In their absence, the women had also changed; they had learned to manage money and provide for their families The book sensitively describes the difficult transitions these families faced.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Skyler

    I'd give this ten stars if I could. Moving, heartrending, insightful true stories of the aftermath of war across three generations following World War II. The author wrote Jambusters, the book that inspired the tv series Home Fires.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Eves

    A collection of memories relating to the Second World War. Well put together and very moving. Probably a "girls" book as quite focussed on the woman's point of view. I enjoyed it and found it very educational and moving.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    I never had an appreciation of what the women and children when through during and after the war. Some very sad stories, but what shone through was how resilient the women were and had to be - survivors. A very good book to read

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This book is about men returning home after the Second World War, it's about how they and their families coped - or didn't cope. Very interesting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike Ward

    Well worth a read - full review here http://0651frombrighton.blogspot.co.u... Well worth a read - full review here http://0651frombrighton.blogspot.co.u...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Salter

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steph

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jane Boocock

  29. 5 out of 5

    Meryl

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ann Jones

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