the guardian Fri 17 April 2009
In September 1939, 500 people replied to a newspaper request for volunteer diary-writers to take part in a mass observation project. The result was a million words from a wide variety of scribblers from whom Garfield has selected four, giving us a unique portrait of a nation at war. There's Edie, a Sheffield housewife delighted with the six yards of knicker elastic she bought off a hawker for 8d a yard; there's Herbert, a retired electrical engineer questioning his decision to plant something called celeriac in his south London allotment; there's Maggie, a thirtysomething unmarried graduate in Slough, fazed by the new social mobility of a typist in her office "who is now in the clerk strata" despite the fact that her father is a works manager. And finally there's Mr Charles, a gay antiques dealer who picks up good-looking German PoWs. The minutiae of other people's lives is seriously addictive.