Thursday 2 October 2008

Lutonian Odyssey

Recently published by Dr Clive Field OBE, formerly of the British Library, is his mother’s account of growing up in Luton between the wars, entitled Lutonian Odyssey: reminiscences of Lily Field for 1915-52.

The introduction explains that Lily worked on the text over a number of years. The account of her life has both the immediacy of the first hand account and the accuracy of Clive’s editing.

It is particularly interesting for being an account of a financially, but in no other way, impoverished life. Lily’s father died when she was very young. She makes light of their poverty, concentrating on the highlights in her life especially her sister, who also sadly died young. A picture of support from her grandfather and from neighbours emerges. There are firsthand accounts of the excitement of visits beyond Luton and of her later immersion in Methodist culture. The description of places and transport in Luton gradually brings out how small the town was then.

At first I felt that insufficient attention was given to their financial hardship but then I realised that this is an account of happily making the best of what they had – a lesson for today.

This book should be read by Lutonians, who will be interested in the people and places described, and by anyone who is caught up in that period of Bedfordshire’s (and England’s) social history.

To buy a copy, price £6, email Clive at

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