Monday, November 24, 2014

THE WAR LIST (L-R) (updated 5/15/2016)

A-C     D-K     L-R     S-Z 

British women writing about war, 1910-1960

Below is part three of my compilation focused on the war-themed writings of British women. Pulling this section together provided me with another interesting array of old favorites, writers I've meant to read but haven't quite got around to, and intriguing unknowns.

In the first category, for me, are treasured favorites like Marghanita Laski (one of Persephone's greatest rediscoveries, in my humble opinion), Ursula Orange (my own favorite rediscovery), Edith Olivier, Winifred Peck (with whom I am currently obsessed), and the incomparable Barbara Pym.

In the second category—those authors I am vowing to read sooner rather than later—are authors like Janet Laing, Lorna Lewis, and Rosalind Murray (whose World War I novel, The Happy Tree, was just reprinted by Persephone).

And among the intriguing unknowns, will one of my new favorites be Sarah Broom MacNaughton or Christine Orr? Or perhaps Naomi Royde-Smith? It remains to be seen.

Hopefully you'll find some of each category on this list as well. 

JANET LAING (1870-1953)
(née Carstairs)
Author of eight light popular novels 1903-1929, including The Wizard's Aunt (1903), The Borderlanders (1904), Before the Wind (1918), The Man with the Lamp (1919), Wintergreen (1921), The Honeycombers (1922), The Moment More (1924), and The Villa Jane (1929). Before the Wind appears to be an energetic comedy about a young girl serving as companion to two eccentric women in wartime Scotland, while Wintergreen deals with a middle-aged servant who, having survived the sinking of the Lusitania, decides to begin a new life in the immediate postwar period.

MARGARET LANE (1906-1994)
(married names Wallace and Hastings)
Biographer, children’s author, and novelist, known for biographies of Beatrix Potter and the Brontës, and for novels including Faith, Hope, No Charity (1935, winner of the Prix Femina-Vie Heureuse), At Last the Island (1937), A Crown of Convolvulus (1954). and A Calabash of Diamonds (1961). Where Helen Lies (1944) provides polished romantic melodrama (from the sound of a contemporary review) set against the backdrop of the war, and Walk into My Parlor (1941), about a bogus spiritualist, was published during the war and is set in London, but could be set in earlier years.

(full name Esther Pearl Laski, married name Howard)
A major Persephone rediscovery, Laski wrote six diverse novels—Love on the Supertax (1944), To Bed with Grand Music (1946), Tory Heaven (1948, inexplicably published in the US as Toasted English), Little Boy Lost (1949), The Village (1952), and The Victorian Chaise-Longue (1953). All but the last of these deal explicitly with the war and its aftermath. Love on the Supertax is a light tale of class and the black market, while To Bed with Grand Music, originally published pseudonymously, is a darker tale of a young wife whose husband is serving abroad, whose boredom leads her into a series of affairs. Tory Heaven is a rollicking satire of the class system, told via a group of castaways rescued after the war, who find that the old class distinctions have now been codified as law. Little Boy Lost is about a father searching for his missing son in postwar France, and The Village (my personal favorite of Laski's novels) is about the aftermath of the war's breakdown of class relations, in the form of two families—an upper crust family and that of their former housekeeper—who have to come to terms with being united by marriage.

NELLA LAST (1889-1968)
(née Lord)
Housewife who wrote for Mass Observation; her World War II diaries, published as Nella Last's War (1981), are important records of home front life. Her diaries of the postwar years have also been published, as Nella Last's Peace (2008) and Nella Last in the 1950s (2010). Last's diaries are particularly interesting in the way they bring to life how war work offered a degree of liberation and purpose to women, which wasn't always fulfilled once the war was over.

MARY LEE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a novel, 'It's a Great War!' Reality of Actual Experience (1929), but no other information seems to be available.

MOLLY LEFEBURE (1919-2013)
Journalist, novelist, and biographer best known for Evidence for the Crown (1954), a memoir of working in the London morgue during WWII, dramatized a few years ago as Murder on the Home Front. Lefebure returned to her war memories in writing her only novel, Blitz! (1988).

(married names Runciman and Philipps)
Now sometimes compared to Woolf or Bowen, Lehmann was seen in her lifetime as a quintessentially middlebrow writer; her novels include Dusty Answer (1927), The Weather in the Streets (1936), The Ballad and the Source (1944), and The Echoing Grove (1953). According to the Guardian, "[w]ar looms large" in her story collection, The Gypsy's Baby and Other Stories (1946). Her one wartime novel, The Ballad and the Source, was set in the years before World War I, but The Echoing Grove (1953) is very much a novel of the postwar, and includes flashbacks to the Blitz & wartime conditions.

ANITA LESLIE (1914-1985)
(married name King, aka Anne Leslie)
Successful biographer known for Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill (1969), about Winston Churchill's mother, Leslie twice earned the French Croix de Guerre as an ambulance driver in World War II. Her sometimes harrowing experiences are described in her memoirs Train to Nowhere (1948) and A Story Half Told (1983).

DORIS LESLIE (1891-1982)
(née Oppenheim, second married name Hannay)
Author of numerous romantic and historical novels from the 1920s-1970s, including Puppets Parade (1932), Concord in Jeopardy (1938), and That Enchantress (1950). Polonaise (1943) was a success during the war, but was historical in themes. Only House in the Dust (1942) seems to qualify her for this list, and just barely at that. It too is primarily historical—my notes about it say that only about 8 pages, in which the "spunky female lead, now elderly, comes to view the ruins of her old house," are set during wartime.

LORNA LEWIS (1910?-1962)
Primarily known as a children's author, her novel Tea and Hot Bombs (1943) has gained some attention in recent years for its portrayal of the Blitz. Feud in the Factory (1944) also deals with wartime conditions. I haven't been able to track down an affordable copy of either. Others include Marriotts Go North (1949) and June Grey: Fashion Student (1953). Presumably she is the same Lorna Lewis who served as secretary and chauffeur to E. M. Delafield for a time.

(married name Deuchar, aka Herbert Tremaine)
Poet, playwright, and novelist under her own name and her pseudonym.  Her WWI play The Handmaidens of Death (1919), about women working in a munitions factory, was recently revived by the Southwark Playhouse in London. The Feet of the Young Men (1917) was intriguingly subtitled "A Domestic War-Novel" and elsewhere there is a mention of Tremaine's having written a "moving novel about unwilling conscripts," which could be this one or could be her earlier work Those Who Declined (1915, listed in Worldcat as Two Who Declined). Other titles, about which details are quite sketchy, include A Woman on the Threshold (1911), The Rose-Coloured Room (1915), Two Months (1919), The Tribal God (1921), and Bricks and Mortals (1924). Only The Tribal God seems to exist in U.S. libraries, and is also available from Google Books.

More research needed; author of six girls' novels of the 1940s and 1950s, some set in schools but most focused on mystery elements; titles include Nicolette Detects (1949)—which, as Sims and Clare put it, "uses the dregs of Second World War spy paranoia" in its tale of evil Nazis infiltrating a school—Two and a Treasure Hunt (1950), Will Madam Step This Way? (1951), Nurse Kathleen (1952), and Nicolette Finds Her (1953).

ALICE LUNT (1919-1973)
Author of three school-related stories—Secret Stepmother (1959), Jeanette's First Term (1960), and Jeanette in the Summer Term (1962)—and other children's fiction; Sims & Clare report that she also wrote adult novels, but I was unable to locate them—perhaps under a pseudonym? Her novels Tomorrow the Harvest (1955) and Eileen of Redstone Farm (1964) are based on her experiences in the Women's Land Army during World War II.

(aka D. J. Cotman)
A popular poet in her day, Lyon wrote in part about her disabilities as a result of illness and injuries from the Blitz (a bus she was on was caught in an bomb blast and her leg severely injured, finally having to be amputated just before the end of the war, and she was further crippled by both diabetes and arthritis). She also worked with Anna Freud caring for children traumatized by war. Lyon wrote two novels, The Buried Stream (1929) and, pseudonymously, The Spreading Tree (1931).

ROSE MACAULAY (1881-1958)
Novelist, travel writer, and essayist, Macaulay has the distinction of having written important novels about both World Wars. Noncombatants and Others (1916) was a highly-acclaimed pacifist novel during World War I, and The World My Wilderness (1950) is a lovely story of post-World War II youth, focused on Barbary, a young girl who has spent much of youth with the Maquis (French resistance guerillas) in occupied France and must now adapt to normal life among the ruins of London. Macaulay's early novel What Not: A Prophetic Comedy (1919) was a satire based in part on her own experiences as a civil servant during World War I, and her later short story, "Miss Anstruther's Letters," deals with Macaulay's own experience of being bombed out during World War II and her loss of a life's collection of letters, books and papers. Various other articles and essays deal either directly or peripherally with wartime issues. Macaulay is also known for her hilarious final novel, The Towers of Trebizond (1958), about tourism, culture shock and religious doubt. After her death, several volumes of her letters appeared, including Letters to a Sister (1964), which covers the World War II years and includes letters focused on wartime conditions. Although Macaulay's non-fiction work The Pleasure of Ruins (1954) seems to focus entirely on historical locations and not the ruins that remained a part of the London landscape for many years after the war, one wonders if the latter played a role in inspiring or at least informing the book.

JEAN MACGIBBON (1913-2002)
(née Howard, aka Jean Howard)
Intriguing author of one highly-acclaimed novel for adults, When the Weather's Changing (1945), about the events of a farmer's wife's summer. Although this takes place as the war is drawing to a close, it seems that the war remains more or less in the background. MacGibbon then suffered a nervous breakdown and thereafter turned mainly to children's fiction, including the school story Pam Plays Doubles (1962). Her late memoir I Meant to Marry Him (1984) details her decision at age thirteen that she would one day marry James MacGibbon, a prominent London publisher, and covers their life in wartime and her breakdown, which apparently occurred on VE Day.

HELEN MACINNES (1907-1985)
(married name Highet)
Bestselling author of spy novels. Several of her earliest novels deal with World War II, while later works focus more on Cold War themes. The acclaimed Assignment in Brittany (1942) and While Still We Live (1944) deal with the French and Polish resistance respectively. Above Suspicion (1941) and Horizon (1945) are also set during the war. Some later works, such as Pray for a Brave Heart (1955) and The Salzburg Connection (1968), deal with wartime secrets that still provoke adventures. MacInnes also wrote two lighter, humorous works—Rest and Be Thankful (1949) and Home Is the Hunter (1964).

(married names Donckier de Donceel and de Chabannes la Palice)
Journalist, novelist, and critic, author of I Came Out of France (1941), an acclaimed first-hand account of the Nazi invasion of France and her own escape back to England, about which the Orlando Project said that it "vividly describes her own adventures and tribulations: crushed in a car whose springs were dragging on the ground, walking deserted roads alone in the black of night, losing her identity papers under the rubble of bombing, nearly being lynched as a spy by a group of peasants and Belgian women refugees, struggling by fair means or foul to obtain from a succession of goaded and frantic petty bureaucrats some papers to enable her to leave first southern France, then Spain, then Portugal." A later work of journalism, The Mouth of the Sword (1948), dealt with the Middle East in the aftermath of the war. Mackworth later wrote two novels, Spring's Green Shadow (1952) and Lucy's Nose (1992).

A prominent biographer of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and of William Hazlitt, Maclean also published several works of fiction, including Seven for Cordelia (1941), Three for Cordelia (1943), The Tharrus Three (1943), and Farewell to Tharrus (1944). I know little about these works, but one source called The Tharrus Tree "[a] heart-warming story of human kindness in a world at war."

Nurse, diarist, and novelist of "intelligent, humorous, mildly feminist fiction" (according to OCEF), including The Fortune of Christina M'Nab (1901), The Three Miss Graemes (1908), and Four-Chimneys (1912). Macnaughton was a nurse during the Boer War and World War I, and was on her way to Russia where she intended to provide medical assistance when she fell ill. She returned to England, but died soon after. She wrote about her wartime experiences in A Woman's Diary of the War (1915), My War Experiences in Two Contintents (1919), and her final, unfinished memoir, My Canadian Memories (1920).

(aka Manning Coles, aka Francis Gaite [both with Cyril Henry Coles])
Popular author (with Coles) of humorous mystery novels featuring Tommy Hambledon, beginning with Drink to Yesterday (1940), and of several satirical ghost stories starting with Brief Candles (1954). Several books in the Hambledon series take place during World War II and in its immediate aftermath. Pray Silence (1940, published in the U.S. as A Toast to Tomorrow) begins in 1933 and traces the rise of the Nazis and preparations for war. Without Lawful Authority (1943) takes place around the time of the Munich Crisis. Green Hazard (1945) and The Fifth Man (1946) are spy stories set during the thick of the war, and A Brother for Hugh (1947, published in the U.S. as With Intent to Deceive) takes place immediately after the war and deals with ex-Nazi criminals. [Thanks to Jerri Chase for providing me with these details.]

(married name Smith, aka O. M. Manning, aka Jacob Morrow)
Novelist best known for two semi-autobiographical trilogies about a young couple in World War II, The Balkan Trilogy—comprised of The Great Fortune (1960), The Spoilt City (1962), and Friends and Heroes (1965)—and The Levant Trilogy (comprised of The Danger Tree (1977), The Battle Lost and Won (1978), and The Sum of Things (1980), collectively known as "Fortunes of War" after the title of a BBC dramatization. Her earlier novels included Artist Among the Missing (1949), about a painter scarred by his war experiences. Her story collection, Growing Up (1948), includes several stories written during and immediately after the war—in particular, "Twilight of the Gods," set in 1946, evokes the exhaustion of the immediate postwar.

(married names Brewer and James)
A trail-blazing journalist for the Daily Mail, Marchant also published two significant books on the war—Women and Children Last: A Woman Reporter's Account of the Battle of Britain (1941) and The Home Front (1942); she had earlier made her name reporting on the Spanish Civil War.

ANNE MARRECO (1912-1982)
(née Acland-Troyte, earlier married names Grosvenor, Hoare, and Wignall, aka Alice Acland)
Best known for her biography The Rebel Countess: The Life and Times of Constance Markievicz (1967), she also published eight novels 1954-1975, most using her pseudonym; titles include Templeford Park (1954), A Stormy Spring (1955), The Boat Boy (1964), The Corsican Ladies (1974), and The Secret Wife (1975). A Person of Discretion (1958), one of her Acland novels, is about three sisters from Brussels who get mixed up with the black market and the Resistance movement late in World War II.

MONICA MARSDEN (dates unknown)
(née ?????)
Author of numerous children's adventure tales and mysteries, including one—The Chartfield School Mystery (1959)—set in a school; others include Night Adventure (1941), Lost, Stolen or Strayed (1943), The Abbey Ruins (1944), and The Manor House Mystery (1950). Presumably, Enemy Agent (1942) and perhaps some of her other wartime works incorporated the war into their adventures.

EILEEN MARSH (1900-1948)
(married name Heming, aka numerous pseudonyms, including Dorothy Carter, James Cahill, Eileen Heming, Rupert Jardine, and Mary St. Helier)
Enormously prolific writer of children's and adult fiction, including adventure stories, Mistress of the Air (1942), We Lived in London (1942), about a working class family in the Blitz, and additional wartime novels such as A Walled Garden (1943) and Eight Over Essen (1943).

(full name Elvira Sibyl Marie Mathews, née Laughton)
Director of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) during World War II, for which she received the DBE, Mathews published a significant memoir of her experiences, called Blue Tapestry (1948).

ANNE MAYBURY (c1901-1993)
(pseudonym of Edith Arundel, married name Buxton, aka Edith Arundel, aka Katherine Troy)
Author of romance and romantic suspense novels; early works include Love Triumphant (1932), Catch at a Rainbow (1935), Arise, Oh Sun (1940), and A Lady Fell in Love (1943), though she is best known for late novels like The Minerva Stone (1968) and Ride a White Dolphin (1971). Arise, Oh Sun, at least, seems to have some wartime themes. Other wartime titles include All Enchantments Die (1941), To-Day We Live (1942), A Lady Fell in Love (1943), Journey Into Morning (1944), and The Valley of Roses (1945).

(married name de Sélincourt)
Primarily known as a poet (and mother-in-law of Christopher Robin Milne), McCleod also published two novels, Graduation (1918), about the coming of age of a young woman, and Towards Love (1923), about a conscientious objector in WWI; contemporary reviews found them humorless and sentimental.

CLARA MILBURN (1883–1961)
(née Bagnall)
Diarist whose World War II diaries, published as Mrs. Milburn's Diaries (1979), provide an important record of domestic life in Coventry during the war—including her experience of the terrible air raids on Coventry and the news that her son is missing in action after Dunkirk.

(full name Isa Constance Miles, née Nicoll, aka Marjory Damon, aka Marjory Royce)
Journalist and author of children's books (including some with Barbara Euphan Todd) and at least two adult novels—Lady Richard in the Larder (1932) and Coffee, Please (1933), about a future in which coffee-making is a precious skill. Her WWII diary was published in 2013 as Mrs. Miles's Diary, and Lyn at I Prefer Reading discussed it late last year.

BETTY MILLER (1910-1965)
Author of seven novels—The Mere Living (1933), Sunday (1934), Portrait of the Bride (1936), Farewell Leicester Square (1941), A Room in Regent's Park (1942), On the Side of the Angels (1945), and The Death of the Nightingale (1948)—only two of which have ever been reprinted. On the Side of the Angels, first revived by Virago in the 1980s and now avalable from Capuchin, deals powerfully with gender roles as revealed by wartime experiences. Her earlier novel, Farewell Leicester Square, was written several years before the war, but was rejected by her publisher. Its exploration of anti-Semitism in the British film industry and in larger society became more urgently relevant with the rise of the Nazis, however, and the book was finally published in 1941. It is now available from Persephone. Miller's other novels of the war years, A Room in Regent's Park and The Death of the Nightingale both appear to take place before the war.

(née Haldane)
Politically engaged author whose writings about war were often historical, such as The Conquered (1923) and her best-known works, The Corn King and the Spring Queen (1931) and The Bull Calves. The Blood of the Martyrs (1939), according to ODNB, "attempted to draw parallels between Nero's treatment of early Christians and Hitler's persecution of the Jews." Her wartime diary, begun for Mass Observation in 1939, was published as Among You Taking Notes (1985) and "reveals what is both a vivid social document and a record of Mitchison's own reactions to the war she hated but knew must be fought" (ODNB).

NANCY MITFORD (1904-1973)
(married name Rodd)
Novelist and biographer, known for the popular social comedies The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949), and for successful biographies such as Madame de Pompadour (1953), Voltaire in Love (1957), and The Sun King (1966). Pigeon Pie (1940) is a rather zany spy story set in the earliest days of World War II.

ALICE MOLONY (dates unknown)
Illustrator and author of a single children's novel, Lion's Crouch (1944), "an exciting story about spies in Cornwall", for which she also provided illustrations; she also illustrated two works by Kitty Barne.

DOROTHEA MOORE (1880-1933)
Prolific author of early girls' school and girls' adventure books, including Terry the Girl-Guide (1912), Septima, Schoolgirl (1915), Wanted, An English Girl (1916)—set in Germany during WWI—A Nest of Malignants (1919), Smuggler's Way (1924), and Sara to the Rescue (1932). Books to Treasure reprinted Wanted, An English Girl in 2014.

EDITH MARY MOORE (1873-c1938)
Author of philosophical novels with socialist leanings, exploring gender roles, war, and urban life. Her works were well-reviewed at the time, but have since been largely forgotten. Her novels Teddy R.N.D. (1917) and The Blind Marksman (1920) deal with World War I, though the Orlando Project notes that she had to rely entirely on her imagination for her battle scenes. Other titles include The Lure of Eve (1909), A Wilful Widow (1913), and The Defeat of Woman (1935).

(pseudonym of Evelyn May Clowes, married names Wiehe and Bowles, aka Jack Heron)
Prolific novelist and travel writer. Nicola Beauman, in her book A Very Great Profession, singled out The Family (1915) and The Park Wall (1916) for their domestic interest. Other novels include A Ship of Solace (1912), The Rose of Youth (1915), Short Shipments (1922), and Mrs. Van Kleek (1933), as well as a memoir, Sinabada (1937). Although actively publishing during World War I, Mordaunt seems to have been solidly focused on Victorian settings in her fiction of that time. Late in life, however, during World War II, Mordaunt published Blitz Kids (1941), which appears to have been a humorous look at children in wartime. She published several more novels just before her death as well, about which information is sparse—it's possible that Here Too Is Valour (1941), Tropic Heat (1941), This Was Our Life (1942), and/or To Sea! To Sea! (1943) also deal with the war.

JOAN MORGAN (1905-2004)
Silent film actress turned novelist, who wrote Camera! (1940), a portrait of the early British film industry, Citizen of Westminster (1940), set at London’s Dolphin Square, Ding Dong Dell (1943), about wartime refugees, and The Lovely and the Loved (1948).

Author of nearly 70 light (and apparently very successful) novels 1921-1970, described as romances but perhaps a bit Cadell-esque; Red Poppies (1928) is about a woman spy in WWI; The Last of the Lovells (1928), Countisbury: A Romance of South Devon (1933), and An Open Secret (1939) are interconnected; and her dustjackets are often irresistible. Some of her WWII-era novels, such as The Quentins (1940), Castle Ormonde (1940), Miss England (1942), Sea Spray (1943), and Knight Without Glory (1945), may well have wartime themes, but I don't yet have details.

PATRICIA MOYES (1923-2000)
(née Pakenham-Walsh, later married name Haszard)
Mystery writer whose novels usually feature Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett and his wife Emmy, whose close relationship add depth to the series; titles include Dead Men Don't Ski (1959), The Sunken Sailor (1961), Murder a la Mode (1963), and The Curious Affair of the Third Dog (1973). Though all of her works appeared well after World War II, her 1965 mystery Johnny Under Ground (1965) makes prominent retrospective use of Emmy's wartime experiences (based on Moyes' own in the Radar Section of the British Women's Auxiliary Air Force), as Emmy's attendance at a reunion of her wartime colleagues leads Henry to investigate the suspicious death of a Battle of Britain pilot.

Author of four early novels, including The Happy Tree (1926, a Persephone reprint), about World War I, as well as Moonseed (1911), Unstable Ways (1914), and Hard Liberty (1929); in later years, she published books about religion and faith, including The Good Pagan's Failure (1939).

NORAH MYLREA (1904-1994)
(married name Easey)
Author of six girls' school stories, most with thriller elements, as well as several other children's books; titles include Lisbeth of Browndown (1934), Browndown Again! (1936), Unwillingly to School (1938), That Mystery Girl (1939), Lorrie's First Term (1940), and Spies at Candover (1941). The last is set in an evacuated school.

(née Nicholson Graves, married names Clifford and Crosse)
Daughter of Robert Graves and artist Nancy Nicholson; journalist and author of Kiss the Girls Goodbye: On Life in the Women's Services (1944), regarding women's roles during WWII, and co-author of a travel book about the Soviet Union, The Sickle and the Stars (1948); she and her second husband, Reuters manager Patrick Crosse, lived in Rome for many years.

BARBARA NIXON (1908-????)
(married name Dobb)
Wife of Cambridge economist Maurice Dobb and actress in the Cambridge Festival Theatre, Nixon was an air raid warden during the Blitz and wrote dramatically of her experiences in Raiders Overhead (1943); the British Library credits her with another title as well, Jinnifer of London (1948).

BARBARA NOBLE (1907-2001)
Head of the London office of Doubleday for many years, Noble published six novels of her own, including the powerful Doreen (1946, reprinted by Persephone), about a young evacuee in World War II, which makes excellent use of Noble's interest in child psychology. The House Opposite (1943) deals with an illicit love affair in London during the Blitz. Noble's other novels are The Years That Take the Best Away (1929), The Wave Breaks (1932), Down by the Salley Gardens (1935), and Another Man's Life (1952).

MARY NORTON (1903-1992)
(née Pearson)
Best known for the Borrowers series of children’s books (1952-1982), Norton’s early novels The Magic Bed-knob (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947), are of interest to me first because they focus on a spinster who is learning to be a witch, but also because they are set during wartime. The former includes a scene in London, where the main character and her young charges get into trouble in the blackout. These novels were (more or less) the source of Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Virago issued some of her other work as Bread and Butter Stories.

KATE O'BRIEN (1897-1974)
Playwright and novelist who often focused on Irish family life; novels (most available from Virago) include Without My Cloak (1931), The Anteroom (1934), Mary Lavelle (1936), The Land of Spices (1941), The Last of Summer (1943), That Lady (1946), and The Flower of May (1953). Of O'Brien's wartime titles, The Land of Spices is set in the early years of the 20th century and That Lady is set even further back in history. Only The Last of Summer seems to make use of the war at all—set during a two week period in late summer of 1939, just as the war is beginning and causing dilemmas for the characters of its social drama.

JANE OLIVER (1903-1970)
(pseudonym of Helen Christine Rees, née Easson Evans, aka Joan Blair [with Ann Stafford])
Author of more than two dozen novels, most historical, from the 1930s-1970s, including Tomorrow's Woods (1932), Mine is the Kingdom (1937), The Hour of the Angel (1942), In No Strange Land (1944), Crown for a Prisoner (1953), and Queen Most Fair (1959). The Hour of the Angel is a Blitz novel, whose main character's husband is in the RAF. In No Strange Land appears to be primarily historical but perhaps end with the war? Hartley says of it: "Sometimes it seems as though all roads must lead to war and even a novel starting in Biblical times finishes in the RAF." Oliver's concern for the RAF was personal—her husband, John Llewellyn Rhys, had been in the RAF and had been killed in 1940. She later initiated the literary prize bearing his name.

EDITH OLIVIER (1872-1948)
Author of five quirky, underrated novels—The Love-Child (1927), As Far as Jane's Grandmother's (1929), The Triumphant Footman (1930), Dwarf's Blood (1931), and The Seraphim Room (1932), as well as a wonderfully odd memoir, Without Knowing Mr. Walkley (1938). In World War I, Olivier had helped to organize the Women's Land Army, for which she was appointed MBE in 1920, though sadly she does not appeared to have written about those experiences. During World War II, however, Olivier published the somewhat autobiographical Night-Thoughts of a Country Landlady (1943), a short work about the elderly Emma Nightingale's experiences and thoughts about the war. More of Olivier's reflections on the war are included in From Her Journals, 1924-1948 (1989). Happily, most of Olivier's works have now been made available again by Bello Books.

CAROLA OMAN (1897-1978)
(née Lenanton, aka C. Lenanton)
Biographer and historical novelist, known for bios of Elizabeth of Bohemia, Walter Scott, and others, Oman also wrote several historical novels including The Road Royal (1924), Miss Barrett's Elopement (1929), Major Grant (1931), Over the Water (1935), and Nothing to Report (1940). The last seems to be a domestic novel set in the early days of World War II.

URSULA ORANGE (1909-1955)
(married name Tindall)
Forgotten author of six novels, at least two of which are richly deserving of rediscovery. Her debut, Begin Again (1936), is an imperfect but fascinating look at the anticlimactic working and family lives of several young girls after their heady days at Oxford, and its sociological value alone—not to mention that it's quite entertaining—makes it worthy of reprinting. To Sea in a Sieve (1937) is a frothy, if rather forgettable, comedy about unconventional young love. But Tom Tiddler's Ground (1941, published in the U.S. as Ask Me No Questions), is Orange's masterpiece, a wonderfully entertaining wartime tale of a young mother evacuated to the countryside who snoops into village affairs. Reminiscent of D. E. Stevenson or Margery Sharp at their best, it's an outrage that it remains out of print (imho, of course!). Orange's follow-up, Have Your Cake (1942), has a tantalizing title but is virtually nonexistent outside of British libraries and I can find no details about it. Company in the Evening (1944), also about discordant housemates in wartime, is certainly interesting in its own right, but it's completely different in tone, a bit darker and with the sense of fatigue and jadedness common in fiction from late in the war—with the result that it's neither as entertaining nor as cohesive as Tom Tiddler's Ground. Portrait of Adrian (1945), described by one source as a "psychological drama," rounded out Orange's novels. She seems to have dealt with severe depression in the years after, and sadly died by her own hand in 1955.

(née Cutting)
Biographer of prominent Italian figures, who remained in Italy during World War II, helping refugee children and later escaped Allied prisoners of war, a time she discussed in her memoir, War in Val d'Orcia (1947); she also published one children's book, Giovanni and Jane (1950).

Poet, playwright, and author of more than a dozen mostly Scottish-themed novels, including The Glorious Thing (1919), Kate Curlew (1922), The House of Joy (1926), Hogmanay (1928), Artificial Silk (1929), Hope Takes the High Road (1935), and Flying Scotswoman (1936). The Glorious Thing is set in Scotland during World War I, and is discussed a bit here.

(full name Mary Patricia Panter-Downes, married name Robinson)
Novelist, biographer, and author of New Yorker’s "Letter from London" from 1939 to 1984. Panter-Downes wrote five novels, all of which she later disowned except for the last, One Fine Day (1947), available from Virago, which evokes Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway in lushly detailing a single ordinary day in the life of a woman—with the difference that Panter-Downes' story is set in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Her charming and fascinating New Yorker pieces from the war years were collected as London War Notes 1939-1945 (1971), which happily will be reprinted by Persephone in early 2015. She also published numerous short stories in the New Yorker, many of which were collected by Persephone as Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories (1999) and Minnie's Room: The Peacetime Stories (2002).

(aka Ellis Peters, aka Peter Benedict, aka Jolyon Carr, aka John Redfern)
Novelist and author of the Brother Cadfael and George Felse mysteries. Her early novel She Goes to War (1942) is based on her own experiences in the WRNS and paints an often vivid and detailed picture. Her trilogy The Eighth Champion of Christendom—comprised of The Lame Crusade (1945), Reluctant Odyssey (1946), and Warfare Accomplished (1947)—follows a young man from an English village who experiences warfare and returns home a changed man. Some of Pargeter's later novels, such as Lost Children (1951) and Means of Grace (1956) make use of postwar moods and characters rebuilding their lives.

(née Marshall)
A 20th century Samuel Pepys, Partridge is known for her diaries, beginning with A Pacifist's War (1978), detailing her wartime experiences with husband Ralph Partridge, as the two faced hostility and resistance from strangers and friends alike due to their pacifism. Subsequent volumes of the diaries (seven in all if my count is correct) follow her life all the way up to 1975. Partridge's memoir, Love in Bloomsbury: Memories (1981), is wonderfully entertaining, and in part details the complicated relationship of the Partridges with painter Dora Carrington and writer Lytton Strachey. She also published a memoir of Persephone author Julia Strachey in 1983.

WINIFRED PECK (1882-1962)
(née Knox)
Novelist whose humorous House-Bound (1942, reprinted by Persephone) is about a woman surviving without servants in wartime Edinburgh; other works include Bewildering Cares: A Week in the Life of a Clergyman's Wife (1940), a wonderful humorous work (one of my favorite reads this year) set just at the beginning of the war. Other wartime novels such as Tranquillity (1944) and There Is a Fortress (1945) may deal with the war as well, but information about them is sparse. Bewildering Cares is being reprinted in the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint by Dean Street Press.

K. M. PEYTON (1929-     )
(pseudonym of Kathleen Wendy Herald Peyton, née Herald, aka Kathleen Herald) (children's)
Children’s author whose first book, Sabre, the Horse from the Sea (1947), appeared when she was 18; best known for the Flambards series, beginning with Flambards (1967), set in a crumbling manor house in the early 20th century. Among other historical events, these books also follow their characters through the traumas of World War I. Several of Peyton’s titles have been reprinted by Fidra.

SHEILA PIM (1909-1995)
Also a popular writer on gardening, Pim is best known for her four mystery novels, in particular Common or Garden Crime (1945), which vividly portrays wartime life in an Irish village; the others are A Brush With Death (1950), Creeping Venom (1950), and A Hive of Suspects (1952).

(née Malan)
Known now for her novel A House in the Country (1944, reprinted by Persephone), set during World War II, Playfair also wrote nine other works of fiction, some of which might also include wartime themes, including Storm in a Village (1940), Men Without Armour (1946), The Desirable Residence (1947), and The Nettlebed (1952).

DORIS POCOCK (1890-1974)
Poet and children's author whose work includes girls' school stories such as The Head Girl's Secret (1927), mystery stories like The Riddle of the Rectory (1931), and World War II stories like Catriona Carries On (1940) and Lorna on the Land (1946), the latter about Land Girls.

JESSIE POPE (1868-1941)
(married name Lenton)
Poet, humorist, editor of Robert Noonan's The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, and author of two novels, The Tracy Tubbses (1914), a humorous tale of married life, and Love on Leave (1919), about a woman's love for an ANZAC soldier; she aroused controversy with the overt propaganda of her WWI poems.

EVADNE PRICE (ca. 1896-1985)
(married names Fletcher and Attiwill, aka Helen Zenna Smith)
Children's author, playwright, TV astrologer, and novelist; author of the vivid World War I novel Not So Quiet: Stepdaughters of War (1930), the popular Jane stories for children (which include a couple of wartime volumes), and romance novels including Society Girl, Glamour Girl, and Air Hostess in Love. Four novels subsequent to Not So Quiet deal with postwar life—Women of the Aftermath (1931), Shadow Women (1932), Luxury Ladies (1933), and They Lived with Me (1934).

VIRGINIA PYE (1901-1994)
(née Kennedy)
Sister of novelist Margaret Kennedy; children's author who specialized in holiday adventure stories; titles include Red-Letter Holiday (1940), Half-Term Holiday (1943), The Prices Return (1946), The Stolen Jewels (1948), and Holiday Exchange (1953). She also wrote one adult story collection, St. Martin's Summer (1930). Of her children's fiction, Pye once wrote, "I wrote my children's books during and after World War II. They have, therefore, the background of war time and post-war England and in this sense they are dated." But I know I'm not alone in preferring exactly that kind of "datedness" in my reading.

Much loved author of humorous novels of domestic and social life, often revolving around church and/or scholars, including Some Tame Gazelle (1950), Excellent Women (1952), A Glass of Blessings (1958), and more serious late novels like Quartet in Autumn (1977) and The Sweet Dove Died (1978). Some of the early novels mention World War II and its aftereffects, but the writing she did during the war was mostly only published decades later. Her diaries, in particular, published in 1984, have gotten a lot of attention, but some of the previously unpublished early writings collected in Civil to Strangers (1987) also deal with the war, including two novel fragments, Home Front Novel and a "spy story," So Very Secret.

(née Llewellyn, married name Knox)
Diarist and memoirist whose WWII diaries, To War with Whitaker (1994), about her determination to follow her soldier husband into the Middle East and Africa, are much recommended by readers of this blog; she also published a memoir, The Ugly One: The Childhood Memoirs of Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, 1913-1939 (1998).

(née Clough, later married names Phillips and Vowles [in the latter case, her husband changed his name to Phillips to match hers])
Author of poetry, plays, character studies, and apparently inaccurate memoirs, Ratcliffe was best known for her poems and sketches in Yorkshire dialect; one of her perhaps fictionalized memoirs is Mrs. Buffey in Wartime (1942).

IRENE RATHBONE (1892–1980)
Novelist best known for We That Were Young (1932), about women's war work in the First World War; the follow up, They Call it Peace (1936), is a bitter tale of women rebuilding their lives after the war; others include Susan Goes East (1929), October (1934), and The Seeds of Time (1952).

AMBER REEVES (1887-1981)
(married name Blanco White)
Author of widely varied nonfiction works, Reeves also wrote four novels about women's roles and frustrations, including The Reward of Virtue (1911), A Lady and Her Husband (1914), Helen in Love (1916), and Give and Take (1923). The last, which takes place at the end of World War I, is reportedly based on Reeves' own experiences in the Civil Service in wartime.

MARY RENAULT (1905-1983)
(pseudonym of Eileen Mary Challans)
Famous for novels of ancient Greece from The Last of the Wine (1956) to Funeral Games (1981), Renault also wrote novels with modern settings and matter-of-fact portrayals of homosexuality. This is certainly true of The Friendly Young Ladies (1944), about a lesbian couple in World War II, and The Charioteer (1953), which deals with a wounded soldier's triangular relationships with a conscientious objector and a naval officer while in a hospital in the midst of blackout and bombings. The North Face (1948), meanwhile, according to Jenny Hartley, takes the main character's predilection for rock-climbing as a symbol for life in the postwar years.

(née Robins, aka Mrs. Baillie-Reynolds)
Popular novelist whose publishing life extended from the 1880s to the 1930s; titles include The Girl from Nowhere (1910), The Notorious Miss Lisle (1911), and two rather melodramatic-sounding World War I themed novels—The Lonely Stronghold (1918), about a young bank employee who inherits a fortune and is made unhappy by it, and Also Ran (1920), about a Red Cross nurse whose love for a wounded officer is threatened by a forced marriage to another man.

JOAN [ODETTE] RICE (1919-2009)
(née Bawden)
Mother of lyricist Tim Rice; her WWII diaries were published in 2006 as Sand in My Shoes: Wartime Diaries of a WAAF; she also published numerous stories and humorous articles in the 1950s and 1960s, which have never been collected.

(née Richardson)
Wife of Edward Rich, a prominent vicar, Molly's entertaining World War II letters have been collected as A Vicarage in the Blitz: The Wartime Letters of Molly Rich 1940-1944 (2010). Lyn at I Prefer Reading discussed it in early 2014.

(née Moore, earlier married name Ackland, aka Mrs. Victor Rickard)
Prolific writer of both literary and light fiction, including detective novels; titles include A Reckless Puritan (1921), Blindfold (1922), A Bird of Strange Plumage (1927), Sorel's Second Husband (1932), and Shandon Hall (1950). The Light Above the Crossroads (1918) deals with a young man who becomes a British spy despite his conflictedness because his best friend is German. The Fire of Green Boughs (1918) is also about conflictedness, as a compassionate young woman who takes in a dying German finds herself arrested for aiding the enemy. And in The House of Courage (1919), women working in a prisoner of war camp face similar moral complexity.

(full name Evelyn Beatrice Roberts, married name Rhys)
Although best known for her poetry—especially from the World War II years—Roberts' wartime diaries, reminiscences of T. S. Eliot and the Sitwells, and short stories were also published in 2008 and sound promising. Roberts also wrote one novel during the war years, Nesta (1944), which was never published and appears to have been lost.

(pseudonym of Eileen Arbuthnot Robertson, married name Turner)
Novelist known for three early novels reprinted by Virago in the 1980s—Cullum (1928), Four Frightened People (1931), set in the Malayan jungle, and Ordinary Families (1933), a family comedy set in Suffolk. The Signpost (1943) is about a wounded RAF pilot and his relationship with a French woman in a remote Irish fishing village.

JEAN ROSS (1907-1985)
(pseudonym of Irene Dale Hewson)
Children's author and novelist; titles include Flowers Without Sun (1938), Aunt Ailsa (1944), Jania (1948), A Picnic by Wagonette (1953), The Great-Aunts (1964), and the intriguing A View of the Island: A Post-Atomic Age Fairy Tale (1965). Kate O'Brien, writing in the Spectator in 1945, said of Aunt Ailsa that it "is a book about English family life between the last war and the present time. It is like a great many such books, in being truthful, matter-of-fact, humorous and likeable. Miss Ross has a steady eye for character and an easy naturalistic way in dialogue, and a great many people will derive entertainment from her unaffected exploitation of these talents." Strangers Under Our Roof (1943) certainly sounds as though it might deal with evacuees or refugees, two popular themes during the war, but I can find little information about it.

(originally Naomi Holroyd Smith, married name Milton)
Prolific novelist, travel writer, and biographer, author of The Delicate Situation (1931), set in the 1840s, and Jane Fairfax (1940), a prequel to Austen’s Emma that mixes other characters—and their creators—into the plot; others include The Tortoiseshell Cat (1925) and All Star Cast (1936). During World War II, Royde-Smith published Outside Information (1941), a book with the voluminous subtitle, "Being a Diary of Rumours Collected by Naomi Royde Smith; Together with Letters from Others and Some Account of Events in the Life of an Unofficial Person in London and Winchester during the Months of September and October 1940." Whew! I don't yet know enough about Royde-Smith's work to tell if any of her wartime fiction, such as The Unfaithful Wife; or, Scenario for Gary (1941) or Fire-Weed (1944), might have reflected wartime concerns as well.

(pseudonym of Olive Maude Shinwell, née Seers)
Mystery writer who published only three novels—Knock, Murder, Knock! (1938), Bleeding Hooks (1940, aka The Poison Fly Murder), and Blue Murder (1942)—characterized by a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Blue Murder takes place during wartime, among an unsavory family whose members find themselves the targets of a killer.

A-C     D-K     L-R     S-Z


  1. Your industry is amazing!

    I love Virginia Pye's books. The Prices Return is particularly good, about coping after the war when you have nowhere to live.

    1. Now you've added yet another book to my TBR list! That sounds right up my alley. Thanks for letting me know.

  2. I first came to K. M. Peyton as a children's librarian, but as soon as I rad her name, I thought of the novel "Peyton's LastTerm," which was a wonderful study of teenaged angst (I always liked it better than Catcher in the Rye) Alas, not set during the way, so Scott, yoou may never read it! Tom

    1. I'll have to check that one out, Tom. So many books...

  3. There are recent reviews of Marghanita Laski's Little Boy Lost, Village and Tory Heaven at Reading 1900-1950 - And you can get a flavour of Nella Last's diaries on YouTube, under the title Housewife 49, as dramatised by Victoria Wood for British television.

    1. Thanks, Grace. I do follow Reading 1900-1950 and I know I saw those reviews, but I can't recall the details now. I think focusing on so many obscure books and authors is making my brain go soft! Have always meant to watch Housewife 49. Will definitely try out the clips. Thanks, Grace!

  4. Whew! You amaze me, as always, Scott.

    And who wouldn't be drawn to the idea of AIr Hostess in Love, as a break from all that blitz and tragedy?

    1. Definitely easy to see the appeal of light reading during wartime. And indeed, who knows? Air Hostess in Love might be completely charming even now.

  5. Christine Orr's Glorious Thing was published, I've just ordered a copy from a UK bookseller. I love Scotland & WWI so I couldn't resist. Thanks for helping me keep my credit card in good working order, Scott!

    1. Oh good, Lyn, I'm glad to hear the book is available, and glad to know I'm helping to stimulate the global economy, at least for booksellers!

  6. What about the 4 mystery rare books you borrowed?

    1. Actually I'm very embarrassed. Of the five war-related books I borrowed recently and am (very) gradually getting around to reviewing, I managed to forget to include at least two of them here. My face is red, but they'll be added soon. (Only one, the Ruth Adam I already reviewed, is actually a mystery.)

  7. Oh, and Scott, P.S. I forgot to thank you for the kind words about Barbara Pym - i LOVE her works and can always enjoy a re-read! And you may have inspire me to do just that! Tom

  8. It looks like you forgot Adelaide Frances Oke Manning (1891-1959), who coauthored the books published as "Manning Coles" with Cyril Henry Coles. A number of their works deal with the wars. In particular the pair of mystery novels A Drink to Yesterday and A Toast to Tomorrow (alt. Pray Silence) deal with WWI and WWII and their interconnectedness. I can't say more or it would be a spoiler to a story that must not be spoiled. And bits of the theme of WWI and WWII being interconnected in some ways can be found in the very hard to find, non-series This Fortress. Other members of the "Tommy Hambledon" series deal with WWII, up through I think the 1946 "Fifth Man", and many of the later books deal with WWII aftermath, although they morph into the cold war. Many of their books have been reissued by The Rue Morgue Press, and lots of information can be found there. More about the male half of the pair, unfortunatly, but I feel certain that Miss Manning was an important contributor. For one things, after her death the quality of the books and their flavor changed. And I noticed this change before I learned about the author(s)'s backgrounds.


    1. I'm going to have to give you co-credit for this list, Jerri. Thanks so much for noticing yet another author I forgot! And funny you should mention Rue Morgue, as only last night I splurged on several of their older titles. Perhaps more mystery reviews to follow...

  9. Steady on Scott--too much teasing is bad........

  10. These posts printed off and a highlighter are going to make for one heck of an afternoon.

    After reading Macaulay's bio I went back and reread Miss Anstruther's Letters and have to say the second reading made me well up. So many wonderful books yet to explore...

    1. Yes, absolutely, when you know the background of what Macaulay lost, the story becomes that much more moving. I think she also wrote a non-fiction piece about having lost her entire library, but I'm working on tracking that down.

  11. Ohh, PRINTING the lists! Good idea, so I can read them anywhere. And make notes (And kill a few more trees than this week's windstorm in Toronto.)

    1. Hmmmm, perhaps I need to do printer-friendly PDFs of my short lists as well???

  12. These lists are the most wonderful resource - even if I can never track down everything that tempts me (and there is too much!), it is a great record of women's achievements in difficult circumstances. Thank you so much for your hard work!

    1. Thank you, Vicki. Tracking down (or, for that matter, having time to read) everything on my lists would definitely be impossible, but they're such fun to put together...


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