Posted in Wartime: Letters Home from Abroad
The title is a pun. The book is based on letters posted in wartime from abroad by Britons posted abroad in wartime. We follow the wartime careers of six people, three of them celebrities (Noel Coward, Cecil Beaton and Freya Stark) and three of them ‘ordinary’ people, including the author’s father, Jack. Jack is an anomaly, since he never wrote home, at least as far as his son can recall, and he never talked to his son about the war. The only letter from Jack in the book is one written by the author on his father’s behalf, which he thinks his father ought to have written from Egypt in 1945.
The author explains that the book began as a search to discover what his father did in the war. Quite how it metamorphised into the present work is unclear. Everybody but Jack gets around a great deal, and there is a wealth of correspondence from accomplished letter writers. The celebrities were all engaged on entertainment or propaganda missions, and the others did their more mundane duty. This is an evocative study in separation, homesickness and nostalgia.