Review: ‘The good life’ by Annegreet van Bergen
To a large extent ‘The good life’ is an addition to the bestseller ‘Golden years’. Annegreet van Bergen uses new facts, figures and anecdotes to show how the strong post-war growth has changed life in the Netherlands. Thanks to new scientific insights and technical possibilities, the world opened up literally and figuratively. Mopeds and cars made the world bigger. Television brought the world into the living room. ‘The good life’ also shows that economic growth involves more than just material gain. We also owe peace, freedom, emancipation and good housing to the increased wealth.
- Book details
- The good life
- The origin of The good life
- Structure and style
- A concrete picture of the post-war Netherlands
- About the author
- Title: The good life
- Author: Annegreet van Bergen
- Date of Birth: January 29, 1954
- First edition: August 2018
- Publisher: Atlas Contact
- Number of pages: 352
- ISBN: 978 90 450 3673 1
The good life
Personal memories of post-war economic growth
The central theme of The good life is post-war economic growth. This growth has significantly changed the Netherlands, both materially and immaterial. The good life is especially interesting because of the recorded personal experiences of ordinary people. These personal experiences resonate throughout the book. They enrich The good life and give a concrete picture of daily life in the post-war years.
The world of the 1950s was slowly but surely being broken up. Mopeds and cars made the world bigger. The world came to us through radio and television, among other things. Buying a television used to be a milestone that many remember. Marietje (1924): “We got TV in 1960 when Prince Baudouin married Fabiola.” Hermien (1933-2018): “We in 1964, when Anton Geesink won gold in Tokyo.” (p. 96).
The quotes with personal memories mainly come from older people, after all, they consciously experienced post-war changes. The older readers among us will recognize a lot in this. Many older readers may have forgotten things, but they will come to the surface while reading. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, salaries were still paid in a pay bag. Bills were paid at the door for insurance and rent, among other things. In the 1950s there was still scarcity, while today we are surrounded by an abundance of things. Also the other topics covered in The good life described will be recognizable to many.
Other consequences of economic growth
The good life also describes other achievements of post-war economic growth. This released more money for scientific research, especially in the field of health and personal hygiene. This can prevent or cure diseases. For example, there are no more patients who have to stay in a sanatorium to recover from tuberculosis: ” In a rich and developed country like the Netherlands, tuberculosis is no longer a public disease and there are hardly any fatalities. Nevertheless, almost a thousand new cases are diagnosed every year; most of the sick (72 percent) were born abroad. But worldwide tuberculosis is still a great danger and according to the KNCV Tuberculosis Fund, with 1.8 million cases per year, it is the most deadly infectious disease in the world ”(p. 215).
The welfare state has also largely reversed post-war inequality. Nowadays, children no longer have to supplement the family income at a young age, but can continue to learn. Women have been able to emancipate themselves to a large extent thanks to their economic independence.
The way we live today was unimaginable in the 1950s. We owe peace and freedom to economic cooperation within Europe. We now also live much more comfortably, thanks to, among other things, central heating and safe tap water. Life has become much easier thanks to appliances such as the refrigerator and the washing machine. According to Harmke (1937) she has seldom been as happy as the day she got a washing machine. “It was terrible fiddling. Until my husband gave me that washing machine. I thought that was so great, I was incredibly happy! ”. (p. 327).
The origin of The good life
On Golden years, the previous book by Annegreet van Bergen, received many enthusiastic responses. Many readers brought the author’s attention to interesting topics or told about their own experiences. This showed that Golden years was not complete. There was more to tell about the consequences of post-war economic growth. Therefore contains The good life a number of new topics, such as Sunday rest, the convenience store, guest work, toys, smoking, the sanatorium, emancipation, safe tap water and peace. A number of subjects are reviewed for a second time, including the car, telephone, television, washing machine and refrigerator.
Structure and style
The good life is divided into five chapters: ‘the world breaks open’, ‘before the present abundance’, ‘without the knowledge and skills of today’, ‘less and less dissimilar’ and ‘dreams come true’. The first two chapters describe the material consequences of economic growth. Chapters three to five tell how comfortable and full of possibilities our existence has become.
Based on facts, figures and policy statistics, it is described what the increased prosperity has meant in practice. The personal experiences described come from readers of Golden years. Their first name and year of birth are stated with each story. It also draws on the personal memories of the author himself. The good life is also beautifully illustrated with dozens of photos. These photos further emphasize the facts, figures and experiences presented. The photos are from readers of Golden years and from the Museum of the Twentieth Century in Hoorn. There are also photographs from the Rijksmuseum Collection in Amsterdam, the National Archives / Collection Spaarnestad, the ANP, Annegreet van Bergen and the Annegreet van Bergen Archives.
A concrete picture of the post-war Netherlands
The good life is a successful sequel to Golden years. The book is easy to read, informative and sometimes extremely amusing. The consequences of post-war economic growth are listed in a structured manner. The good life consists not only of facts, figures, policy statistics and photos. It is mainly the recorded personal experiences that give a concrete picture of what our daily life once looked like.
The good life provides a concrete picture of the developments in the post-war Netherlands. It is also a celebration of recognition for people who are in The good life described changes themselves. Is for the younger generation The good life an interesting introduction to a time of less prosperity, conveniences and possibilities.
About the author
Annegreet van Bergen (1954) is an economist, journalist and writer. She prescribed de Volkskrant and Elsevier. Her bestseller was published in 2000 The lessons of burnout. Later followed My mother wanted to die (2010) and Golden years (2014). The bestseller Golden years was nominated for the NS Public Prize and the Libris History Prize in 2015, and won the Hebban Public Prize. Since 2006, Van Bergen lives in Zutphen and writes a column every Tuesday de Stentor, edition Zutphen / Lochem.