Few Eggs and No Oranges is an abridgment of Vere Hodgson’s first-hand account of life in London during WWII. Describing herself as ‘an ordinary commonplace Londoner’ in the book’s foreword, Hodgson, a social worker, tasked herself with writing a diary with the intent of sending it to her cousin Lucy living in what is now Zimbabwe. For the next five years, she faithfully recorded what she could, from sleepless nights spent huddled in corridors or at her charity’s office, to trawling the shops for hard to find furnishings and kitchen tools for her flatlet, to wandering London and surveying the damage wrought by the air raids.
Hodgson’s entries are straightforward and meticulously written, owing to the fact that her diary was a form of correspondence. Her purpose, first and foremost, was to keep her cousin Lucy up-to-date on the events from home. Despite this, Hodgson’s spirited personality is what keeps this book engaging and interesting throughout. While some have bemoaned the lack of insight or deep reflection in Hodgson’s observations, her diaries nonetheless provide an accurate perspective of life in wartime Britain. Hodgson describes cramped train journeys, food shortages in the city, putting out fires caused by incendiary bombs, and other dangers and everyday difficulties, while still being able to go to work every day, organize trips to the local zoo for children and their parents, and have weekends with friends and family. Hodgson’s diaries present a clear picture of what life was like for thousands of other ordinary people in and around London during that time, carrying on with their daily routines as normally as they could, while German bombs fell night after night.