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The summer of 1939

Contemporary records from the start of the second world war

By Ian Irvine   September 2009

Virginia Woolf, novelist, 57. Monday, 28th August 1939, at her cottage in Sussex

“I stay out here, after bowls, to say—what? on this possibly last night of peace. Will the 9 o’clock bulletin end it all?—our lives, oh yes, and everything for the next fifty years? Everyone’s writing I suppose about this last day. I walked on the downs, lay under a cornstack and looked at the empty land and the pinkish clouds in a perfect blue summer afternoon sky. Not a sound. Workmen discussing war on the road—one for it, one against. For us it’s like being on a…

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