The Second World War had been under way for a year when Marie and John Williamson welcomed two English brothers to join them for the duration of the conflict. Nobody had any idea how long it would last. Marie and John had met the boys? mother, Margaret Sharp?a distant cousin of Marie?just once. What were they getting themselves into? Marie and John and their own two children lived in a small house in north Toronto, but all Canadians, Marie was convinced, wanted to do their bit for Britain.
Marie wrote over 150 letters to Margaret Sharp between August 1940 and May 1944, imagining that she could make Margaret feel that she was still with her children. She shepherded the boys through education decisions and illnesses, eased their adaptation to a strange new life, and rejoiced when they embraced unfamiliar winter sports. The letters brim with detail about food shortages and rationing, family holidays, their efforts to cope with the financial implications of an extended family, their involvement in their church, and the games and activities that kept them occupied. Marie's letters reflect the lives and concerns of a particular family in Toronto, but they also reveal a portrait of Canada's largest city during wartime. Although children went about their daily lives with school and other activities, many sacrifices were being made. Supplies of coal and wood were diminished, and citizens were subjected to blackouts, air raid exercises, and gasoline rationing.
The preface is by Mary F. Williamson, Marie’s daughter, and Tom Sharp, Margaret’s youngest son. The book features a scholarly introduction by Jonathan Vance that puts the letters in historical context. Compelling reading for the general reader, this book provides important material for scholars of social history and life writing.
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