Nuthouse Al

Penelope Fitzgerald

  • Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London by Jean Freedman
    Kentucky, 230 pp, £28.50, January 1999, ISBN 0 8131 2076 4

‘I began this study with the fairly simple idea of “the finest hour” ’ Jean Freed man says: ‘Greer Garson as Mrs Miniver singing bravely in the bombed-out church, Winston Churchill’s broadcast inspiring and uniting people in all parts of the country’ – that’s to say, with two fictionalisations, at quite different levels, of what may or may not have happened. Her enquiry was eventually modified to ‘How does the standard image of wartime London match with memory and experience?’ This means that she has to consider the loss of confidence, by professional historians, in themselves, and she decides, in her introduction, that she cannot do better than quote David Lowenthal: ‘Even if future insights show up present errors and undermine present conclusions, evidence now available proves that some things almost certainly did happen and others did not.’

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