Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE WAR LIST (D-K) (updated 5/15/2016)

A-C     D-K     L-R     S-Z

British women writing about war, 1910-1960

Below is part 2 of 4 of my list of British women writers who published significant work about World War I or World War II. This section, I've just noticed, contains a disproportionate number of my favorite authors. Apparently, I am biased in favor of authors whose names begin with D-K.

Among them is perhaps my favorite memoirist of World War II—Frances Faviell (Olivia Parker), whose A Chelsea Concerto I've raved about here before—as well as my favorite diarist of the war, Vere Hodgson. There's one of my favorite Persephone rediscoveries, Norah Hoult (though she still hasn't been rediscovered enough), and there's one of the funniest authors who ever tackled a major war, Joyce Dennys. Plus, there are several highly recognizable names who are among my most-read authors—E. M. Delafield, Stella Gibbons, and Rumer Godden. Obviously, my interests have most often skewed toward World War II, but the list also includes one of the most powerful authors on World War I that I've ever come across, Cicely Hamilton.

Of course, there are also some authors I haven't yet gotten around to, so there's more to look forward to, and hopefully there are some interesting discoveries for you as well. Hope you enjoy it. 

Bomb damage to a girls' school, 1916

CLEMENCE DANE (1888-1965)
Playwright, mystery writer and novelist known for A Bill of Divorcement (1921), a successful play about changing divorce laws, Regiment of Woman (1917), a controversial novel about lesbianism in a girls' school, and Broome Stages (1931), about several generations of a theatre family. The Arrogant History of White Ben (1939) is an allegorical novel about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. At the beginning of the war, Dane also publishing The Shelter Book (1940), subtitled "A Gathering of Tales, Poems, Essays, Notes, and Notions … for Use in Shelters, Tubes, Basements and Cellars in War-Time."

(aka Teresa Kay)
Novelist and memoirist whose dramatic life provided background for her novels. A Crown for Ashes (1952) reportedly deals with her wartime experiences in a villa outside Budapest. I don't have details on that novel, but her real-life wartime experiences, covered in her memoir Of Love and Wars (1984), included not only the usual wartime hardships, bombing raids, food shortages, etc., but also the fact that near the end of the war she and her husband (a well-known Hungarian cellist) provided shelter for two months to a Jewish composer disguised as a Catholic priest. After the war, she relocated to the U.S., but her first two novels were published pseudonymously to protect family remaining behind the Iron Curtain. Other works include The Burning Jewel (1957), Kiss from Aphrodite (1968), Arabesque (1976), and Fugue (1977).

E. M. DELAFIELD (1890-1943)
(pseudonym of Edmee Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, née de la Pasture)
Loved for her Provincial Lady novels (1931-1940), humorous fictionalized diaries making light of marriage, motherhood, and literary life, Delafield’s other novels include several with themes relating to both World Wars. The War-Workers (1918) is a humorous look at a group of women running a supply depot, which heavenali reviewed just recently. Delafield's lesser known 1920 novel, The Optimist, features a war veteran coming into conflict with a Victorian-minded canon and his family. At the very beginning of World War II, Delafield added The Provincial Lady in Wartime (1940) to her popular series, but the death of her son shortly after he was called up for military service devastated her later that year. The much darker No One Now Will Know (1941) begins on the cusp of the war but then travels back in time to the 1870s. Her final work, Late and Soon (1943), deals with a widow taking in evacuees, and seems to be a return to somewhat humorous writing, though perhaps with a darker edge than in Delafield's earlier works? Frisbee discussed the novel in 2012. She made a contribution to wartime propaganda with her 30-page pamphlet People You Love: On the Status of the Family Under Nazism (1940). She also published at least one short story with a wartime setting, "Some Are Complicated," which scholar Robert L. Calder compares to Elizabeth Bowen, and which appeared in the anthology London Calling, edited by Storm Jameson.

JOYCE DENNYS (1883-1991)
(married name Evans)
Dennys wrote several humorous works in the 1930s, including Repeated Doses (1931) and Economy Must Be Our Watchword (1932), and numerous one-act plays for women over the years, but she is by far best known today for her humorous home front sketches first published in Sketch magazine during World War II, collected as Henrietta’s War (1985) and Henrietta Sees It Through (1986). As charming as the sometimes hilarious and always entertaining "letters" from Henrietta to her friend serving abroad are, Dennys' brilliant illustrations are equally so.

MONICA DICKENS (1915-1992)
(married name Stratton)
Novelist and children’s author; known for One Pair of Hands (1939), a memoir of her time as a cook, and the novels Mariana (1940) and The Winds of Heaven (1955), both reprinted by Persephone; and for the Follyfoot and World's End series of children's books. Mariana has a peripheral wartime interest, in that the framing plotline, setting up the flashbacks to her earlier life, is that the main character is awaiting word on her husband's fate after his destroyer has been sunk (Savidge Reads reported on it in 2013). But her second memoir, One Pair of Feet (1942), far more serious than its predecessor, focuses on her experiences as a nurse in the early days of the war—a miserable experience all round from the sound of it. Her 1943 novel, The Fancy, makes use of Dickens' subsequent experience working in a factory, and The Happy Prisoner (1946) deals with a wounded soldier trying to adapt to life after war.  Captive Reader wrote about that one last year.

MARY DUNSTAN (1901-1956)
(pseudonym of Patience Mary Agar-Robartes, née Basset)
Author of eleven novels 1935-1956; her debut, Jagged Skyline (1935, aka Snow Against the Skyline) is about mountain climbing, while Banners in Bavaria (1939) was praised for its "extraordinarily impressive picture of Munich on the night of the Anschluss celebrations." A review of the latter here cites a TLS review: "The reader is taken into a typical German (not German-Jewish) family, where the father, although unable to share Nazi ideas … is yet able to appreciate the essence of Hitler’s achievement." Another review said of it, "The character drawing is excellent and the book is almost as impartial as it claims to be." Dunstan's other novels include The Driving Fear (1946), What Comes After (1950), Walled City (1955), and Trusty and Well-Beloved (1956).

(pseudonym of Olive Gwendoline Potter, aka Margaret Potter)
Author of numerous girls’ school novels, including Evelyn Finds Herself (1929), Elder also wrote six adult novels, often centered around medicine and some reprinted by Greyladies, including Sister Anne Resigns (1931), The Mystery of the Purple Bentley (1932), Lady of Letters (1949) and The Encircled Heart (1951), Doctor's Children (1954), and Fantastic Honeymoon (1961). Two of the Strangers at the Farm School (1940) are Jewish refugee children, discussed here. Doctor's Children is very much a novel of the postwar, dealing with a woman doctor at the time that the National Health Service was being implemented.

SUSAN ERTZ (1894-1985)
(married name McCrindle)
Prolific writer of romantic novels, including Madame Claire (1923), Now East, Now West (1927), which contrasts English and American culture, Charmed Circle (1956), about a dysfunctional family, One Fight More (1939), about three sisters and their problems, and the “blitz novel” Anger in the Sky (1943), mentioned by both Maslen and Hartley. The Saturday Review concluded it's review by saying, "It is a book full of encouragement and goodwill and good feeling, and full, too, of acute observation and understanding of common human emotions. If it seems a little unduly hopeful about the good effects which will result from the war, that is perhaps because the author has seen much at close quarters of what human nature can rise to in times of crisis."

LEONORA EYLES (1889-1960)
(née Pitcairn, married name Murray, aka Elizabeth Lomond? [see entry for Lomond on main list])
Journalist and novelist who focused on working class women in her non-fiction The Woman in the Little House (1922) and novels like Margaret Protests (1919) and Hidden Lives (1922); published successful mysteries in the 1930s, including Death of a Dog (1936) and No Second Best (1939). During World War II Eyles wrote For My Enemy Daughter (1941), a series of letters to her daughter, who had married an Italian and was living in Italy. Perhaps also of interest are Eyles' cookbook, Eating Well in War-time (1940), and her wartime advice book Cutting the Coat: A Book for Every Housewife in War-time (1941).

(married name McKenzie)
Now known primarily as an expert on land use and landscape architecture, Fairbrother also wrote good-humored memoirs of country life. The first, Children in the House (1954), focuses on her experiences evacuating with her two sons from London to a house in the Buckinghamshire countryside and living there while her husband was in the RAF. The Cheerful Day (1960) details the family's return to London, and The House (1965, aka A House in the Country) is about their experiences building a country house.

(pseudonym of Olivia Parker, née Lucas)
Novelist and memoirist whose most famous work is A Chelsea Concerto (1959), a harrowing and absolutely riveting account of the early days of the war from the perspective of an artist and volunteer Red Cross nurse living in Chelsea. Virginia Nicholson, who discusses Nicholson in some depth in her book Millions Like Us (2011), referred to it as one of the best examples of "Blitz lit," and you can read my own full review of it here. Faviell also wrote The Dancing Bear (1954), a powerful memoir of life in Germany in the aftermath of the war, and three novels—A House on the Rhine (1955), set in Germany just after the end of the war, Thalia (1957), a tragic tale of a troubled young girl, and The Fledgeling (1958), about a young man's desertion from national service and its repercussions. All five books are being reprinted in the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint by Dean Street Press.

More research needed; author of only two children's novels—The Romance of a China Doll (1946) and Caroline's First Term (1947). I know little about the former, but the latter contains, among its "bulk order of cliches" (as Sims and Clare put it) a science mistress who may be a Nazi spy. Despite its far-fetched plot, Sims and Clare enjoyed its pleasingly ironic tone and strong characters.

MONICA FELTON (1906-1970)
(née Page)
Later known for her writings on North Korea and India, including That's Why I Went: The Record of a Journey to North Korea (1953) and A Child Widow's Story (1966), Felton began her career with one novel, To All the Living (1945), dealing with wartime factory life in England.

Eccentric novelist best known for The Brontës Went to Woolworth's (1931, now available from Bloomsbury). Her other novels are False Goddesses (1923), The Stag at Bay (1932), Popularity's Wife (1932), A Child in the Theatre (1933), A Harp in Lowndes Square (1936), Alas, Poor Lady (1937, reprinted by Persephone), the hilarious A Footman for the Peacock (1940), Evenfield (1942), The Late Widow Twankey (1943), A Stroll Before Sunset (1946), and Sea Front (1954). A Footman for the Peacock (1940) is one of my favorites of World War II, a hilarious, edgy, biting satire about a family of snobs dodging any and all wartime responsibility while coping with a Nazi-sympathizing peacock who may be the reincarnation of an ill-fated footman from the family's distant, cruel past. The follow-up, Evenfield (1942), is a marvelous tale of obsessive nostalgia—perhaps ironically set in a somewhat nostalgic alternate universe in which world wars don't exist. Her third, very odd, wartime novel, The Late Widow Twankey (1943), meanwhile, takes place in wartime, but in a village that seems to be possessed by the characters of the traditional pantomime, forced to make sense of modern life while driven to occupy their eternal roles. Passionate Kensington (1939) and Royal Borough (1950) are her acclaimed memoirs of life in Kensington, the latter of which includes the war years. A Stroll Before Sunset (1946), published just after the war had ended, is set in the Edwardian years, but her final work, Sea Front (1954), is set in a seaside resort town, tracing the changes residents face in season and out, as well as the changes wrought by war. Footman and Evenfield, along with the earlier Harp in Lowndes Square, are being reprinted in the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint by Dean Street Press.

(pseudonym of Morna Doris MacTaggart, married name Brown)
A popular author of mystery novels from the 1940s to the 1990s. I, Said the Fly (1945) is set in London just before and at the very end of World War II. The followup, Murder Among Friends (1946, aka Cheat the Hangman) is also set during the war, but her other wartime novels—Give a Corpse a Bad Name (1940), Remove the Bodies (1940), Death in Botanist's Bay (1941), Your Neck in a Noose (1942), and Don't Monkey with Murder (1942)—seem to make little use of the war. Under her real name, MacTaggart had earlier published two mainstream novels, Turn Simple (1932) and Broken Music (1934).

(née Rosling)
Known as a popular cookbook author, FitzGibbon published two acclaimed memoirs—With Love (1982), about WWII and her life in Chelsea during the Blitz, and Love Lies a Loss (1985), which covers the postwar years; she also published one novel, The Flight of the Kingfisher (1967).

HELEN FOLEY (1917-2007)
(pseudonym of Helen Rosa Fowler, née Huxley, aka Helen Huxley)
Author of nine novels 1946-1976, which sound intriguingly middlebrow in theme; A Handful of Time (1961), a Book Society Choice, deals with two women before and after WWII in and around Cambridge; The Traverse (1960) and Fort of Silence (1963) are about troubled marriages, Between the Parties (1958) about an affair, and The Grand-Daughter (1965) is about first love in Scotland.

(married name Sheean)
Wife of journalist Douglas Sheean; editor of War Letters from Britain (1942) and author of a book about the Blitz, The Battle of Waterloo Road (1941), a novel called A Cat and a King (1949), and a biography of her aunt (by marriage), American actress Maxine Elliot.

CAROL FORREST (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of Margaret Tennyson)
Once incorrectly identified as a pseudonym of Catherine Christian; author of several girls' stories focused on Guiding, such as The Marigolds Make Good (1937) and Two Rebels and a Pilgrim (1941); The House of Simon (1942) is an intriguing wartime tale of abandoned children making their own home.

(née Beech)
Author of 7 humorous memoirs about her relocation to Provence and later adventures, including escaping from the Nazi invasion of France; titles are Perfume from Provence (1935), Sunset House (1937), There's Rosemary, There's Rue (1939), Trampled Lilies (1941), Mountain Madness (1943), Beauty for Ashes (1948), and Laughter in Provence (1950). Trampled Lilies is the volume which deals with her wartime experiences, including having French Army officers billeted on her and her eventual journey across country to flee the Nazis on one of the last ships out of France. Beauty for Ashes recalls the dark days of the war after her arrival back in England and finally her return to the house in Provence, while Laughter in Provence describes the challenges of postwar life. Mountain Madness, though published during the war, appears to focus primarily on more of her adventures in Provence before the war began.

PAMELA FRANKAU (1908-1967)
Prolific and popular novelist whose novels elegantly explore social issues; A Wreath for the Enemy (1954) is a spellbinding story of a young girl's life-altering summer; others include The Willow Cabin (1949), The Winged Horse (1953), and Frankau's personal favorite, The Bridge (1957). A portion of The Willow Cabin takes place during World War II, and the main character leads a rather drab life in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, billeted in a former girls' school.

CELIA FREMLIN (1914-2009)
(married names Goller and Minchin)
Crime novelist and journalist best known for her 16 crime novels, starting with The Hours Before Dawn (1958). But she began her career with The Seven Chars of Chelsea (1940), which detailed her experiences in domestic service, and War Factory (1943), which grew out of her work with Mass Observation and provides a vivid view of wartime factory life.

(married names Terry and Ames, aka Rachel Ames)
Journalist and novelist best known for Night Falls on the City (1967), a bestseller set in wartime Vienna. The book is the first volume of a trilogy, followed by A Place in the Country (1968) and Private Worlds (1971). The less acclaimed sequels are set, respectively, soon after the war has ended and in the early 1950s.Gainham published several earlier spy novels (several reviewed here) and continued publishing until 1983; other titles include Time Right Deadly (1956), The Cold Dark Night (1957), The Silent Hostage (1960), To the Opera Ball (1975), and The Tiger, Life (1983).

DIANA GARDNER (1913-1997)
Novelist and story writer, known for "The Land Girl" (1940), about a girl from the Women's Land Army who breaks up her hosts' marriage; she published one collection, Halfway Down the Cliff (1946) and one novel, The Indian Woman (1954); in 2006, Persephone's printed a collection of her stories called A Woman Novelist.

(married name Ashcraft)
Writer of historical novels from the 1930s until the early 1990s, Gavin is best known for her trilogy set in World War II—Traitors' Gate (1976), None Dare Call It Treason (1978), and How Sleep the Brave (1980).  The Snow Mountain (1973) is set in Russia during World War I.  Other titles include Clyde Valley (1938), The Hostile Shore (1940), and The Mountain of Light (1944).

STELLA GIBBONS (1902-1989)
(married name Webb)
Known for her classic debut, Cold Comfort Farm (1932), Gibbons wrote numerous other novels which are only beginning to be fully appreciated. She seems to have been at her best in the war years and shortly thereafter, capturing wartime conditions and sentiments with subtlety and humor in several novels. The Rich House (1941) takes place just on the cusp of the war, and follows several young, mismatched couples and a mysterious and distinctly odd anonymous letter-writer. See Fleur Fisher's review of that one. The Bachelor (1944) is my own least favorite of Gibbons' WWII-era writings, and it makes little use of its wartime setting apart from the presence of an unpalatable refugee girl, but it certainly has the usual Gibbons depth of character and believability. Westwood (1946), by contrast, is my favorite the period and makes beautiful use of its setting in London circa 1943-1944. Bombed out buildings and an air of fatigue powerfully evoke the late years of the war, and for more information, this one was reviewed by Desperate Reader in 2012. Finally, The Matchmaker (1949) is set just after the war's end, when the heroine has evacuated herself and her children to a country cottage to await the return of her husband who is serving in Germany. While I have always been a bit luke-warm on Cold Comfort Farm, which is just too over-the-top for me, and find her later work much more enjoyable, the truth is that most people feel just the reverse, so I shall include a review of The Matchmaker by CallMeMadam, a favorite blogger who falls into the later camp. Gibbons went on publishing until 1970, and finished two more novels thereafter which remain unpublished. Fortunately, many of her best works, including the four WWII-era novels, are now in print from Vintage UK.

BRENDA GIRVIN (1884-1970)
Playwright and author of girls' school novels and other works for children, Girvin's Munition Mary (1918) is about the adventures of a teenage girl in a wartime munitions factory. Her other titles include Cackling Geese (1909), The Mysterious Twins (1910), Queer Cousin Claude (1912), The Schoolgirl Author (1920), The Tapestry Adventure (1925), and Five Cousins (1930).

Poet and novelist whose fiction includes Dear Charity (1922), Silver Woods: The Story of Three Girls on a Farm (1939), Come Wind, Come Weather (1945), about farm life in wartime, Life in Little Eden (1948), and Three at Cherry-Go-Gay (1949), another wartime story of evacuees in Devonshire.

RUMER GODDEN (1907-1998)
(married names Foster and Dixon)
Popular novelist and memoirist, known for Black Narcissus (1939) and The River (1945), both made into classic films. An Episode of Sparrows (1955) is one of my favorite novels of the immediate postwar period—about children building a garden among the bombed-out ruins of London (but of course about so much more than that). Godden's memoir, A Time To Dance, No Time To Weep (1987), is another favorite, and includes her harrowing experiences living in India during World War II. Some of those experiences also turn up powerfully in the novel Kingfishers Catch Fire (1953).

Novelist and children's author, known for The Little White Horse (1946), J. K. Rowling's favorite children's book; novels include the bestseller Green Dolphin Country (1944), a trilogy, The Eliots of Damerosehay (1940-1953), and the powerful wartime novel The Castle on the Hill (1943). Of Castle, my notes at the time mention that it occasionally veers into sentimentality and the romantic scenes are awkward, but also that Goudge had something in common with Iris Murdoch, with her "serious concerns for good and evil, for the ways people reason through their own behaviors and religious and cultural dogmas, and for a sort of mysticism that, though perhaps more postmodernly questioned in Murdoch than in Goudge, certainly permeates the works of both." Hmmm, perhaps a re-read is called for. Pilgrims' Inn (1948, aka The Herb of Grace), the second volume of the Eliots trilogy, is set immediately after the war.

(married name Thesiger)
Journalist and poet best known now for Consider the Years 1938-1946 (2000), humorous poems on wartime themes reprinted by Persephone; Graham also wrote a series of humorous books, including Say Please (1949), Here's How (1951), and A Cockney in the Country (1958).

CONSTANCE GREGORY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' story, The Castlestone House Company (1918), set during World War I, in which Guides deal with nefarious spies and outlandish wartime misadventures.

JOYCE GRENFELL (1910-1979)
(née Phipps)
Well-known actress, comedian, and author of monologues and other humorous pieces. Grenfell's wartime journals were published as The Time of My Life: Entertaining the Troops (1988), and some of her correspondence with her mother from 1932 to 1944 was published in Darling Ma (1988). Her lifelong correspondence with Virginia Graham has been collected as Joyce and Ginnie (1997).

MARGARET W. GRIFFITHS (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of adventure-oriented school and holiday stories, including A Queer Holiday (1936), J.P. of the Fifth (1937), The House on the Fjord (1939), Wild Eagle's Necklace (1945), Elizabeth at Grayling Court (1947), and The Blue Mascot (1949). I have to assume (though I could be wrong) that Hazel in Uniform (1945) has something to do with the war?

Children's author and novelist whose fiction includes Children of the Fog: A Novel of Southwark (1927), Little Mascot (1936), and Scent of Magnolia (1934), about the culture conflicts of a young Anglo-Argentine. I tracked down and reviewed The Yellow Pigeon (1929), set in Belgium during World War I, and found it quite interesting and worthwhile, if ultimately a bit disappointing.

(née Franken, earlier married name Burghes)
Novelist, journalist, playwright, biographer, and author of controversial political works. Her novel Man's World (1926) was reportedly a source of Huxley's Brave New World; other fiction includes Brother to Bert (1930) and I Bring not Peace (1932). Haldane was a war correspondent for The Daily Sketch during World War II, and wrote of her experiences in her memoir Truth Will Out (1949).

(née Hammill)
Playwright, suffragette and novelist whose work includes How the Vote was Won (1910), a retelling of Lysistrata focused on women's rights. In fiction, she is best remembered for the powerful World War I novel William: An Englishman (1919), the very first reprint from Persephone Books, which deals with a young British couple trapped behind enemy lines in Belgium after the German invasion (Heaven Ali discussed it back in 2012). Before that, she had published Senlis (1917), a work of non-fiction about a French town ravaged by the Germans during the war. Theodore Savage (1922) is a dystopian novel and, although it does not deal directly with the war, it seems to have grown out of her despair at human destructiveness. She published no more novels after the experimental Full Stop (1931), but she did also publish some non-fiction regarding World War II.

(née Adamson, aka Iconoclast)
One of the first women elected to the House of Commons, Hamilton was also a translator (from German) and novelist; works include Dead Yesterday (1916), about intellectuals during World War I, Full Circle (1919), and Murder in the House of Commons (1931).

MARTIN HARE (1905-1968)
(pseudonym of Lucy Zoe Girling, married name Zajdler)
Novelist who published several intriguing novels in the 1930s; titles include Butler's Gift (1932), Describe a Circle (1933), The Diary of a Pensionnaire (1935), A Mirror for Skylarks (1936), and Polonaise (1939), the last about English children adapting to a new life in Poland. In 1946, Zajdler published The Dark Side of the Moon, an account of Soviet brutality against the Polish people during World War II, for which no lesser figure than T. S. Eliot wrote a preface. The book was published anonymously, presumably because she had family members still living in Poland and was worried about possible reprisals.

Author of at least 8 novels, many dealing with rural life; Farmer's Girl (1942) deals with a Londoner's experience as a Land Girl; others include The Houses in Between (1936), Two Ears of Corn (1943), Wheelbarrow Farm (1954), and her postwar diaries, No Halt at Sunset: The Diary of a Country Housewife, published in 1974.

Haskins was rocketed to lasting fame when her poem “The Gate of the Year” was read on BBC by George VI in a Christmas 1939 broadcast and became forever associated with the war; she had also written two novels, Through Beds of Stone (1928) and A Few People (1932), in which the Spectator found “hazy sentiment.”

Author of about 40 works of children's fiction and adult romance, including school stories which Sims & Clare note are "redolent of the Victorian era"; they also note that The Girls of St Olave's (1919) features wartime air raids, and Joan Tudor's Triumph (1918) is unique for its tone of Gothic horror.

DOREEN HAWKINS (1919-2013)
(née Lawrence)
ENSA actress whose memoirs of wartime life, published in 2009 as Drury Lane to Dimapur: Wartime Adventures of an Actress offer a unique variation on tales of WWII. Hawkins' Telegraph obituary provides information about her and about the book.

ANNE HEPPLE (1877-1959)
(pseudonym of Anne Hepple Dickinson, née Batty)
Writer of more than 20 romantic novels about Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, including Gay Go Up (1931), Scotch Broth (1933), Heyday and Maydays (1936), Sigh No More (1943), Jane of Gowlands (1949), and The House of Gow (1948), which is the favorite of many fans. Her 1941 novel, The North Wind Blows (1941), is set during World War II and features a land girl suspected of being a spy.

(née Brown, earlier married name Pitcher, aka Dorothea Martin)
Author of nearly two dozen novels from the 1930s-1950s, including several mysteries and thrillers. Her wartime works include the energetic thrillers Lady Gone Astray (1941), about a young heiress with amnesia up against unscrupulous refugees, and The Mice Are Not Amused (1942), about a legal secretary who takes a job as doorman at a block of flats infested with Fifth Columnists. Her 1943 novel, Plenty Under the Counter, deals with the black market. [Thanks to Grant Hurlock for information on this hard-to-find author.]

Apparently a successful and acclaimed stage actress as well as author of a single novel about women factory workers in World War II, entitled Ladies May Now Leave Their Machines (1944). According to Geoffrey G. Field, that work "combines documentary reportage of factory work, fictional stories about other women workers, and detailed observations about her own physical and psychological responses to industrial work," but "[t]he result is an inferior, fragmented novel—indeed scarcely a novel at all—but a mine of interesting detail." Which, perversely or not, only makes me want to read it. Hill does not seem to have continued to write, unless she did so under an undiscovered pseudonym, but she seems to have written one play, The Wonderful Ingredient (1934).

LORNA HILL (1902-1991)
(née Leatham)
Prolific author of girls' ballet stories, pony books, and other children's fiction; A Dream of Sadler's Wells (1950) and its sequels present an ideal view of ballet training, while The Vicarage Children (1961) and its sequels offer more realistic portrayals of middle class family life. Hill's early books were written only to entertain her daughter, and she had completed eight by the time she began to publish her Marjorie series in the late 1940s. The fourth title in that series, Northern Lights, was written as a Christmas present for her daughter in 1941, but by the time the stories were being published, its wartime setting was deemed not of interest to readers. It was finally privately published in 1999 and then reprinted by Girls Gone By.

MURIEL HINE (1873-1949)
(married name Coxon, aka Muriel Hine Coxon, aka Mrs. Sydney Coxon, aka Nicholas Bevel)
Author of nearly three dozen romantic novels from the 1910s-1950; titles include April Panhasard (1913), The Hidden Valley (1919), The Ladder of Folly (1928), The Door Opens (1935), Man of the House (1940), The Second Wife (1943), and Liar's Progress (1950). It's possible that other novels had wartime settings as well, but certainly The Best in Life (1918), later made into the film Fifth Avenue Models (1925), dealt with a young woman who is half French and living in wartime London.

PAMELA HINKSON (1900-1982)
(aka Peter Deane)
Daughter of Katharine Tynan; children's author and novelist who wrote girls' school novels such as The Girls of Redlands (1923) and Schooldays at Meadowfield (1930) as well as adult novels like The End of All Dreams (1923) and the WWI-themed The Ladies' Road (1932)—according to The Spectator a "tale of war time and country life in Ireland" which was reprinted by Penguin.  The Spectator went on to comment about Hinkson's "irritating prejudice against the comma."

VERE HODGSON (1901-1979)
Diarist known for her crucial World War II diaries, Few Eggs and No Oranges (1976), reprinted by Persephone. Hodgson was in central London throughout the war, working for a charity aiding those who were bombed out, and her diaries include harrowing descriptions of blitz and hardship as well as irresistible perspectives on the practical hardships and pleasures of day-to-day life in wartime (such as those evoked by the diaries' title).

INEZ HOLDEN (1906-1974)
Underrated author of the World War II novels Night Shift (1941), a powerful episodic portrayal of life in a wartime aircraft factory, and There's No Story There (1944), a rather bleaker but quite interesting tale set in a vast ordnance factory, where a snowstorm strands workers for a night. Her story collection, To the Boating (1945), also includes some vivid portrayals of wartime life—including, according to Jenny Hartley, more portrayals of people behaving badly during the war than were usually included in the somewhat idealized standard fare of fiction. Other novels include Sweet Charlatan (1929), It Was Different at the Time (1943), and The Adults (1956). Holden has received increased critical attention in recent years, but sadly this doesn't seem to have resulted in any general revival of her work.

NORAH HOULT (1898-1984)
(married name Stonor)
Long neglected, Hoult's novels feature brilliant, realistic character studies. Two of her most powerful novels are set during World War II.  There Were No Windows (1944, reprinted by Persephone), is a harrowing but fascinating tale about an elderly woman in London experiencing dementia (or perhaps Alzheimer's) in the worst days of the Blitz, accompanied only by surly caregivers and indifferent others, all women. The novel is reportedly based on the sad final days of novelist Violet Hunt (see below). Hoult's 1946 novel House Under Mars also focuses primarily on women. It's set in a boarding house in the late years of the war, and is a rather dark but brilliant portrayal of wartime life, dominated by pettiness, spying, moralizing, and cheating. For fans of Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude, House of Mars would make an excellent companion piece. Hoult's later novel, A Death Occurred (1954), set in the postwar years, is similarly concerned with the inhabitants of an apartment building in which an unpopular woman has just died. Other wartime fiction includes Four Women Grow Up (1940), Augusta Steps Out (1942), and Scene for Death (1943).

Primarily the author of Catholic inspirational works, many of which remain in print. One of these is This War Is the Passion (1941), which deals with the Blitz in Catholic terms. Houselander also wrote short fiction and a novel, The Dry Wood (1947).

(married names Scott, Douglas-Henry, and Amis)
Novelist whose first book, The Beautiful Visit (1950), won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Howard is best known now for her Cazalet Chronicle, which details a family's experiences in wartime England—comprised of The Light Years (1990), Marking Time (1991), Confusion (1993), Casting Off (1995), and All Change (2013). Karen at Books and Chocolate reviewed the first book of the series earlier this year.

VIOLET HUNT (1862-1942)
(full name Isabel Violet Hunt)
Novelist and memoirist known for her early "new woman" novels, her Kensington literary salons, and her affairs with the likes of W. Somerset Maugham, H. G. Wells, and Ford Madox Ford. The Workaday Woman (1906) flirts with themes of working women, while White Rose of Weary Leaf (1908), often considered her best work, was risqué for its day. Zeppelin Nights (1917), written with Ford, is a sort of Canterbury tales for World War I, though the content is primarily historical and not war-related. The Last Ditch (1918), however, is described as an epistolary novel about a mother and two daughters and their experiences during the war. Hunt also published a memoir, The Flurried Years (1926). Her final book appeared in 1932, but her tragic final illness in London during the Blitz reportedly inspired the main character in Norah Hoult's powerful There Were No Windows (1944).

MARGARET ILES (?1903-?1998)
More research needed; published five novels in the 1930s and 1940s—Season Ticket (1934), Elder Daughter (1936), Perry’s Cows (1937), Burden of Tyre (1939), and Nobody’s Darlings (1942). The last is mentioned by Hartley and seems to deal with evacuees in a rural village—intriguing enough, but apparently it's impossible to locate a copy.

FAY INCHFAWN (1880-1978)
(pseudonym of Elizabeth Rebecca Ward, née Daniels)
Poet and memoirist whose light verse and sketches about village life were highly successful, starting with The Verse-Book of a Homely Woman (1920) and including Living in a Village (1937) and Salute to the Village (1943). The last is an account of village life during wartime, and I reviewed it here. Inchfawn's memoir Those Remembered Days (1964) also includes discussion of the time period and the writing of Salute. She wrote only one novel, Sweet Water and Bitter (1927), but at least two other books—The Life Book of Mary Watt (1935) and Barrow Down Folk (1948)—have some of the qualities of novels.

NAOMI JACOB (1884-1964)
(aka Ellington Gray, aka Naomi Ellington Jacob)
Novelist, actress, and memoirist whose Jacob Ussher (1925), was a bestseller, and whose popular memoirs began with Me—a Chronicle about Other People (1933) and continued through numerous other volumes including Me—Again (1937) and Me—and the Swans (1963), about her friendship with Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge. Her later novels were romantic in nature. Her reflections on wartime life feature particularly in Me—In War-Time (1940). I have to say that this volume seemed to me preachy and pretentious and—worst of all—quite dull, and I decided I didn't need to spend more time on Jacob. But your experiences might vary, and if you absolutely love one or more of Jacob's works, do let me know. Perhaps I'm missing out.

NORAH C[ORDNER]. JAMES (1901-1979)
Popular and prolific writer of (often unhappy) romantic novels, whose first, Sleeveless Errand (1929), dealing with suicide, prostitution, and bisexuality, was banned in Britain but a bestseller nonetheless; others include Jealousy (1933), The Stars Are Fire (1937), and The Father (1946). Although I haven't read it, Grant Hurlock, an avid reader of World War II fiction, recommends James's Enduring Adventure (1944) as a favorite example of blitz lit.

STORM JAMESON (1891-1986)
Author of an incredible 50+ novels, Jameson's fiction was often politically engaged and varied widely in style. Much of her work is at least partly concerned with war and its causes, including Three Kingdoms (1926) and Farewell to Youth (1928), as well as her most famous works, the Mirror in Darkness trilogy comprised of Company Parade (1934), Love in Winter (1935), and None Turn Back (1936). With the approach of World War II, however, her work focused more overtly on current events. In the Second Year (1936) is a distopian novel about a Fascist takeover of England. Cousin Honoré (1940) attempts to examine the causes of the war via the microcosm of a village in Alsace. Europe to Let: The Memoirs of an Obscure Man (1940) was a collection of novellas about the rise of Fascism. The Fort (1941) used the form of a Greek drama in a tale of French and English soldiers trapped in a cellar as the Nazis approach. Cloudless May (1943) examines the capitulation of France, while The Journal of Mary Hervey Russell (1945) is a more personal, fictionalized diary, often considered among Jameson's best work. Jameson's later work The Green Man (1952) was an epic war novel and a bestseller, tracing nearly two decades of the leadup to the war and the war itself. Jameson also wrote several passionate works of non-fiction about war, and her acclaimed memoir, Journey from the North (1969), includes some reflections on both wars as well.

(married name Harwood)
Novelist, historian, and criminologist known for The Lacquer Lady (1929), about life at the Burmese Royal Palace, and A Pin to See the Peepshow (1934), a novel about a famous murder case, both reprinted by Virago in the 1980s. Early in World War II, Jesse and husband Harold Harwood collected their letters to friends in the U.S. and published them in two volumes, London Front (1940) and While London Burns (1942). Also in 1942, Jesse wrote an account of the courageous salvage of a tanker set on fire by Germans, called The Saga of the San Demetrio (1942). This was later made into a movie.

(married names Stewart and Snow, aka Nap Lombard)
Popular author of satirical novels, of which The Unspeakable Skipton (1959), based on the life of the infamous Baron Corvo, is widely regarded as her best. Johnson published several novels during the war. Winter Quarters (1943) focuses on an army battery stationed in a small English village, but both The Family Pattern (1942) and The Trojan Brothers (1944) seem to be set before World War II.

(married name Lucas)
Author of several acclaimed novels in the 1920s, including Quiet Interior (1920), which was praised by Katherine Mansfield, The Singing Captives (1922), The Wedgwood Medallion (1923), Inigo Sandys (1924), Helen and Felicia (1927), about two sisters and the complications when one of them marries, and Morning and Cloud (1932). According to Sharon Ouditt, The Singing Captives is "concerned with the impact of war and the postwar world on a well-to-do family." The Wedgwood Medallion focuses on family life and troubled love, but Ouditt notes of it, "Stability, propriety and tradition are set against breakdown and pretence in a world struggling with the impact of war and modernity." Inigo Sandys is set in postwar Cambridge.

JOSEPHINE KAMM (1905-1989)
(née Hart)
Known for her pioneering young adult novels, including Young Mother (1965), about a pregnant teen, and for various biographies and historical works, Kamm started her career with five adult novels—All Quiet at Home (1936), Disorderly Caravan (1938), Nettles to My Head (1939), Peace, Perfect Peace (1947), and Come, Draw This Curtain (1948). Peace, Perfect Peace is set in the immediate postwar years, and was recommended for the WWII Book List by Ann.

ZELMA KATIN (1902-????)
(née Selina Mandler)
Information about her life before and after World War II is sparse, but Katin's 'Clippie': The Autobiography of a War Time Conductress (1944) offers a unique perspective on home front life.

BARBARA KAYE (1908-1998)
(pseudonym of Barbara Kenwick Muir, née Gowing—not to be confused with romance writer Barbara Kaye, born 1934, or with Marie Muir, who apparently also wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Kaye)
Wife of bookseller Percy Muir; she recorded their life together in two memoirs, The Company We Kept (1986), which details their lives during World War II, and Second Impression (1995). She also wrote more than 20 novels 1940s-1970s, of which presumably at least Home Fires Burning (1943) and Black Market Green (1950) deal with the war and postwar life, respectively. Other titles include Call It Kindness (1942), Folly's Fabric (1944), No Leisure to Repent (1945), The Gentleys (1948), Festival at Froke (1951), Rebellion on the Green (1953), Neighbourly Relations (1954), Minus Two (1961), and The Passion-Flower Hedge (1972).

(married name Fry)
Reportedly one of the writers parodied by Stella Gibbons in Cold Comfort Farm, Kaye-Smith wrote many novels of rural life in Sussex and Kent, strongly infused with her Christian faith. Among her most well-known novels are Sussex Gorse (1916), Tamarisk Town (1919), Joanna Godden (1922), The End of the House of Alard (1923) and The History of Susan Spray, the Female Preacher (1931). Like so many writers of her time, she also co-authored two books about Jane Austen. She published several memoirs, including Kitchen Fugue (1945), which deals with her experiences living in "Bomb Alley" in Sussex during World War II. I always recall that E. M. Delafield’s Provincial Lady speaks rather disparagingly of Kaye-Smith as a writer one might not care to know in real life, but I remain intrigued as to why that was.

(married name Davies)
Novelist best known for the massively successful The Constant Nymph (1924), about an eccentric family, which was also dramatized and filmed; others include a sequel, The Fool of the Family (1930), A Long Time Ago (1932), Return I Dare Not (1934), and Troy Chimneys (1953). Early in the war, Kennedy published Where Stands a Winged Sentry (1941), which Phyllis Lassner rather irresistibly describes as "her memoir of wartime domestic life." The Feast (1950), sometimes considered Kennedy's best work, makes vivid use of postwar conditions, including concerns about rationing and the fact that the central catastrophe of the novel is brought about by a stray mine which has exploded a few months earlier.

(pseudonym of Alice Elizabeth Burton, married name Aitken)
Known for popular histories of life in various periods of British history, Kerby also wrote six earlier novels, including Miss Carter and the Ifrit (1945), about a middle-aged spinster wrestling with the deprivations of the late war years, who encounters a genie who helps her rediscover the pleasures of life.

(née Calvert, later married name Crowder)
Author of romances and humorous novels, many apparently featuring a main character called Elizabeth. Sadly, information about her work is sparse, but titles include Our Elizabeth (1920), Camilla in a Caravan (1925), Getting George Married (1933), Elizabeth Finds the Body (1949), and Elizabeth in Wartime (1942), the last presumably a home front novel.

(married name Thorp)
Best known for A Pullet on the Midden (1946), an "evocative, authentic and heartwarming" memoir of her experiences as a land girl in Lancashire, Knappett also published a subsequent memoir, Wait Now: Impressions of Ireland (1952), about her life in Ireland.

A-C     D-K     L-R     S-Z


  1. Glad to see Monica Dickens herein - I read both "One Pair of Hands" and then"One Pair of Feet," and sometimes wondered why I didn't like the Feet on quite so much - although I love the very ending (AND there is a wonderful line from "The Man Who Came to Dinner" which she might have lifted right from that play!) Tom

    1. There's also "My Turn to make the Tea", covering her third attempt at a career - this time as a junior reporter on a local paper.

    2. I'm sorry to say I've only read the One Pairs and Mariana so far, but clearly I have my reading cut out for me...

  2. If only these books weren't so hard to come by. I've blackened my hands, and knees, digging around dusty second-hand bookshops for books such as these and more often than not come up empty-handed. Few Eggs and No Oranges and An Episode of Sparrows are favourites of mine as well. I've made note of A Chelsea Concerto and will see if my library can find it as an ILL...fingers crossed!

    1. Oh, I wish you luck. I think you would love A Chelsea Concerto, and I really can't fathom why it hasn't been reprinted. Possibly my number one choice of a criminally neglected book!

  3. Okay, I just ordered The Time of my Life from ABEbooks. Really Scott, you are such a bad influence on me. There are still some quite reasonable copies available.

    1. OR am I a good influence, Susan? Hope you enjoy Grenfell's book--let me know what you think!

  4. Hi Scott - great list!
    My favorite blitzlit novel would fit in this alphabetical chunk:
    Norah C. James' 1944 Enduring Adventure
    - Grant Hurlock

    1. I haven't read that one, Grant, and didn't know enough about James to include it. I'll add it into my revision of list. Thanks for mentioning it!

  5. Love that illustration of Cook being fitted with her gas mask by Robert from the Prov Lady in Wartime. Brilliant book!

    1. Oh yes, Nicola, the illustrations are almost as entertaining as the Provincial Lady herself, which is saying something.

  6. What about Norah Hoult's horrifying 'there were no Windows' based on the elderly demented Violet Hunt. Dementia in war-time!

    1. That one is mentioned above, and definitely one of my favorites.


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