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Love and War in London

A Woman’s Diary 1939-1942

By Olivia Cockett
Edited by Robert W. Malcolmson
Subjects Social Science, Women’s Studies, History, Biography & Autobiography
Series Life Writing Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889204584, 224 pages, April 2005
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554587391, 224 pages, August 2009
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554581085, 224 pages, January 2006

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Love and War in London: A Woman’s Diary 1939–1942 by Olivia Cockett and edited by Robert Malcolmson
A Note on Sources
The Diary
War in Name Only: October 1939–April 1940
Real War: June–August 1940
Bombs, Busyness, and Hoping for Babies: September 1940–October 1942
Olivia Cockett as a child
Olivia Cockett’s London, 1939–1940 (map)
Waterloo Station in 1941
Bill Hole in 1938
Olivia Cockett as a young woman
“The Cut” market in 1938
Olivia Cockett’s passport photo, 1931
Damaged houses on Breakspears Road, 1940–1941
Rene Willmott at 33 Breakspears Road, November 1942
Olivia Cockett in her mid-thirties


Olivia Cockett was twenty-six years old in the summer of 1939 when she responded to an invitation from Mass Observation to “ordinary” individuals to keep a diary of their everyday lives, attitudes, feelings, and social relations. This book is an annotated, unabridged edition of her candid and evocative diary.
Love and War in London: A Woman’s Diary 1939-1942 is rooted in the extraordinary milieu of wartime London. Vibrant and engaging, Olivia’s diary reveals her frustrations, fears, pleasures, and self-doubts. She records her mood swings and tries to understand them, and speaks of her lover (a married man) and the intense relationship they have. As she and her friends and family in New Scotland Yard are swept up by the momentous events of another European war, she vividly reports on what she sees and hears in her daily life.
Hers is a diary that brings together the personal and the public. It permits us to understand how one intelligent, imaginative woman struggled to make sense of her life, as the city in which she lived was drawn into the turmoil of a catastrophic war.


Olivia Cockett's detailed three-year diary written between August 1939 and October 1942 is unusual in its length, its literary quality, and its level of detail and openness.... [Her] writing is vibrant and engaging... She writes, as Malcolmson points out, not only of the facts, but of the feelings of wartime, revealing how public and private experiences were closely entangled.

- Amy Bell, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2005, Volume 76, Number 1, Winter 2007, 2008 January