Dennis Sewell

On The Road

American Journey: Life on the Home Front in the Second World War

By

Allen Lane / Penguin Press 327pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

There is something intriguing about any lost manuscript, newly discovered. Will it sparkle like buried treasure, crack a code, contain a prophecy? Or was there good reason for its disappearance: second thoughts on the part of the author, sound judgement on the part of a publisher? This book spent almost sixty years in Alistair Cooke’s closet before it was dug out by his secretary, Patti Yasek, a short while before the writer’s death. Cooke, who was fastidious to the end, was delighted by the find and content the book should be published. This is not, then, a case of the artist’s discarded canvases or sketchbook doodles being rushed to market by post-mortem scavengers.

In February 1942 Cooke set out from Washington in a Lincoln Zephyr ‘with five re-treaded tyres, the War department’s compliments to all public relations officers … and an insurance policy covering one life and one colour camera. The Japanese

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