Monday, February 9, 2015

THE WAR LIST version 2.0

I was happy late last year when I finally got around to posting my War List, meant to include all the British women I knew of from my time period who had written significantly about World War I or World War II (and in a few cases both). I had been planning the list for ages and working on it for quite some time.

But perhaps not long enough.

Now I knew—and I stated it at the time—that I was setting myself a real challenge, since many of my authors are quite obscure and little or no information about their work is available anywhere, short of managing to track down copies of their work so I can post about it myself. I knew the list would continue to be a work in progress for a long time—and perhaps forever. But I seem to have been laboring under the delusion that I had actually done a decent job of including the writers I already knew about.

Within days of posting the list, however, I started noticing some glaring oversights, and kind readers started pointing out even more of them.

How on earth, for example, had I forgotten RUTH ADAM, who was already one of my favorite authors even before I read and reviewed her WWII mystery, Murder in the Home Guard, last year?! I think I might even have been reading Home Guard while I was doing work on the list, and even if I hadn't known about that one, she would have deserved inclusion for her history, A Woman's Place, which brilliantly covers the changing roles of women in both of the wars. I can't fathom the workings of my mind sometimes.

Then of course there's ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, whose Chalet School stories are becoming favorites. I've been particularly looking forward, for the past year or so, to the two books in that series most centrally concerned with World War II, The Chalet School in Exile and The Chalet School Goes to It, and yet somehow I neglected to include Brent-Dyer in my list. (Thanks to Ruth for pointing out that oversight and for helping me fill in which other titles in the series are war-related.)

MARY CROSBIE's World War I-related novel There and Back Again (1927) is impossibly obscure, so I could have been justified in missing it—had I not just recently read it and written a review of it (which I still haven't got round to posting, but it's coming soon).

I've also read one of HELEN ASHTON's war-related novels, Yeoman's Hospital (1944), and quite enjoyed it, so how did I miss her while preparing the list?

Rose Allatini

Forgetting ROSE ALLATINI was also an unfortunate error. It's true that she's not exactly a household name, but she should have been high on my list considering that her World War I pacifist novel Despised and Rejected was not only a war novel but was also one of the earliest works to quite openly advocate for gays and lesbians (for which it was promptly banned).

SYLVIA THOMPSON is perhaps not quite such a glaring oversight, but her 1926 novel The Hounds of Spring was certainly a popular, if not always remembered, World War I-related work.

Though I somehow managed not to forget to include the best-selling novelist of all time, AGATHA CHRISTIE, comments from two different readers (thanks, Susan and Jerri!) brought about major improvements to my entry on her. Admittedly, since she wrote more than 80 books, I might be justified in forgetting the exact content of a few of her books, but the fact that I completely neglected to address the World War I content of her early works seems like a careless mistake, since I've actually read all of those books and quite enjoyed them.

Jerri also noted another missing author. Several of ADELAIDE FRANCES OKE MANNING's mysteries make use of the war. Manning was one-half of "Manning Coles," the pseudonym she and collaborator Cyril Henry Coles used for many years. In particular their series featuring Tommy Hambledon includes several titles that take place during World War II and its immediate aftermath. Jerri noted that Drink to Yesterday and Toast to Tomorrow, in particular, deal in interesting ways with the interconnectedness of World War I and World War II.

Two more authors came as a result of suggestions from Grant Hurlock, a fellow obsessive reader of blitz lit and home front works. He recommended Enduring Adventure (1944), by NORAH C. JAMES, as a great example of the former, and LESLEY STORM's play, Great Day, as a can't-miss example of the latter. Both are high on my TBR list now.

Admittedly, some of the new additions to my list are of rather peripheral interest in regard to wartime content, so I could be excused for missing them the first time around. GWENDOLEN FEATHERSTONHAUGH and CONSTANCE GREGORY each wrote only one school story with wartime themes—however outlandish, while MARJORIE CLEVES and MARGARET W. GRIFFITHS each wrote one which might have war-related themes, though I'm not certain. DOROTA FLATAU published one novel about a German spy in England during World War I, while LILLIAN BOWES LYON may not belong here at all, as her works about the war may all be poems, but her life is tragic and interesting so I decided to add her.

A few of these authors were also only added to my Overwhelming List in the most recent update. Among them are two who published works of particular interest to me. I already mentioned CAROL FORREST's The House of Simon in my post on compulsive shopping, and she'll be mentioned again in an upcoming post on children's authors included in my most recent update. And ELIZABETH M. HARLAND's early novel Farmer's Girl (1942), about a Londoner's experience as a Land Girl, is calling my name as well.

Published in 1943, this one certainly seems
likely to deal with farming during wartime as well

Finally, ESTHER TERRY WRIGHT was included on my original list, but I've been able to flesh out my information about her and her work thanks to very generous and informative emails from her son Charles. A full post on Wright will follow eventually—I promise!

The long and short of it is (well, too late for it to be short, I guess) that the list posts have all been updated to include all of these authors as well as a few more I haven't singled out here. So I thought it might be useful to treat this as an "update" post and include below only the authors who are either newly added to the War List or who have been significantly revised, so that those who have already looked at the complete list can see only what's new. If you've never looked over the War List before, you can follow the link to the left of the page or click here.

I should note that, as with the Mystery List, updating the list posts makes it almost impossible to retain the cover photos that originally graced the lists. Thus, only those photos at the tops of each section of the list remain. Those that were part of the lists themselves have had to be removed. Perhaps someday when I'm confident all relevant authors have been added to the lists and no further revisions need be made, I'll be able to go back and add images to a definitive list. (We'll see how that goes!)

So that's it—my full confession of my own dimwittedness. Are there still other egregious oversights? Egregious or not, there are certainly more British women who wrote war-related works and who still aren't included, so let me know if you come across any.

RUTH ADAM (1907-1977)
(née King)
Author of socially conscious novels including I'm Not Complaining (1938, reprinted by Virago in the 1980s), the humorous novel A House in the Country (1957), about a group of friends living together in a former manor house, and the important historical survey A Woman’s Place, 1910-1975 (1975, reprinted by Persephone). Several of her novels deal with war. Her debut, War on Saturday Week (1937), follows a group of siblings from childhood during World War I to the outbreak of World War II (only a fear at the time the novel was published, but it must have seemed inevitable). Her third novel, There Needs No Ghost (1939), humorously contrasts the reactions of villagers and Bloomsburyites to the Munich Crisis. During World War II, Adam experimented with a mystery novel, Murder in the Home Guard (1942), which, if not entirely successful as a novel, is a remarkable portrait of wartime concerns in an English village. The aforementioned A Woman's Place also fascinatingly covers women's roles in both World Wars, as well as in both postwar periods, and A House in the Country is also grounded somewhat in the World War II period, as Adam describes how she and her friends fantasized about country living during air raids. From 1944-1976, Adam wrote a women's page for the Church of England Newspaper, and her perspective as a Christian socialist feminist was undoubtedly surprising on occasion for that readership, but apparently popular, as she continued for more than three decades. She apparently sometimes wrote about wartime and postwar concerns in those pages, and I'd love to get my hands on a few of them. Adam's postwar novels are Set to Partners (1947), So Sweet a Changeling (1954), Fetch Her Away (1954), and Look Who's Talking (1960), as well as two girls' school stories, discussed here.

MRS. A. E. ALDINGTON (1872-1954)
(pseudonym of Jessie May Aldington, née Godfrey
Mother of novelist Richard Aldington and innkeeper at the Mermaid Inn in Rye; author of several novels of Kentish village life, including Love Letters That Caused a Divorce (1905), A Man of Kent (1913), and The King Called Love (1913). Presumably her Love Letters to a Soldier (1915) deals at least peripherally with World War I.

ROSE ALLATINI (1890-1980)
(aka R. Allatini, aka A. T. Fitzroy, aka Eunice Buckley, aka Lucian Wainwright, aka Mrs. Cyril Scott)
Prolific novelist of social issues, best known for her pacifist World War I novel Despised and Rejected (1918), also an early sympathetic portrayal of homosexuality. Her 1919 novel Payment also deals centrally with the war, tracing a young man from boyhood through his brutal death on the battlefield. Family from Vienna (1941, published as Eunice Buckley) is set during and after the Anschluss and traces the conflicts of an assimilated Jewish family in London who take in refugee relatives from Austria. Destination Unknown (1942)—dedicated, incidentally, to another author on my Overwhelming List, Constance Holme—also deals with a large Jewish family in London, some of whom are refugees now working as domestic helpers, and Blue Danube (1943) traces a Jewish family over several generations, ending in London during World War II. Allatini was quite prolific, so other of her works might also deal with one or both world wars.

HELEN ASHTON (1891-1959)
(married name Jordan)
A prolific novelist from her 1913 debit, Pierrot in Town, which deals with bohemian life, until just before her death, Ashton later wrote several popular hospital dramas, including Doctor Serocold (1930) and Hornets' Nest (1935), as well as Bricks and Mortar (1932, reprinted by Persephone), about an architect. A Background for Caroline (1928) makes use of some of Ashton's experiences nursing in France during World War I. According to Kirkus, Tadpole Hall (1941) is the story of "gentle, retiring Colonel Heron and his home, Tadpole Hall, the leisurely tradition they both represent and the incursions which war brings." And Yeoman's Hospital (1944) is a melodrama set at a village hospital, but I found it entertaining and its portrayals of the war effective.

RUBY M[ILDRED] AYRES (1883-1955)
(married name Pocock)
Bestselling author of well over 100 romantic novels published between the 1920s and 1950s. A bestseller in its day, Richard Chatterton, V.C. (1915) traces a wartime courtship. The Orlando Project said of it that "it is also an examination, albeit a shallow one, of ideals of masculinity." Its success led quickly to a sequel, The Long Lane to Happiness (1915), in which war is the backdrop to various melodramatic-sounding plotlines. Invalided Out (1919), a romance of a Captain invalided out of the army who finds conflicted romance with both a young girl who may be entrapping him and her step-sister, also seems to use the war as mere stage setting. Although Ayres continued publishing until after World War II, I haven't learned enough about her later work to know how much she wrote about the later war. Other titles include Wynne of Windwhistle (1926), Follow the Shadow (1936), Rosemary—For Forgetting (1941) and Love Comes Unseen (1943).

MAY BALDWIN (1862-1950)
Important early girls' school author whose work often featured realistic international schools and reflects the evolution of girls' schools; titles include Two Schoolgirls of Florence (1910), The Girls' Eton (1911), A Riotous Term at St. Norbert's (1920), and The School in the Wilds (1925). According to a blurb on Goodreads, Phyllis McPhilemy: A School Story (1914) is "[a] British school story written and set during the First World War. Besides the descriptions of British school life, there are also depictions of the war and its problems."

(née Charlesworth, aka Brandon Roy)
Author of romantic novels with a Christian component, in which pristine female characters are often seen as the redeemers of men; works include The Rosary (1909) and The White Ladies of Worcester (1917). In 1914, Barclay published My Heart's Right There, a sentimental novella about the unending courage of British soldiers. At the beginning of World War I Barclay produced a novella entitled My Heart's Right There, in which she made vivid for her mass audience the courage of British soldiers. For her later wartime work, The White Ladies of Worcester (1917), Barclay took refuge from the war by using a medieval setting.

(née Gaskell, second married name Wileman)
Author of two dozen humorous romances published from the 1900s to 1940s and characterized by, in OCEF's words, their "extraordinary cheerfulness"; titles include An Undressed Heroine (1916), Sally in a Service Flat (1934), and The Two Miss Speckles (1946). A Girl for Sale (1920) takes place immediately after World War I: a young girl "finds herself without a job after the Armistice and in desperation advertises in the newspaper for a new employer." Romance ensues. World War II-era titles such as Paying Pests (1941), Mary Ann and Jane (1944), and The Two Miss Speckles (1946) likely have some home front component, though I don't have enough details about them to know how much.

(pseudonym of Gladys Eleanor May Dyer)
Best known for her Chalet School books, of which she wrote nearly sixty, Brent-Dyer also published one romantic novel for adults, Jean of Storms, written in 1930 but not published in book form until 1996. Several of the Chalet School books were set during the war. The Chalet School in Exile (1940) and The Chalet School Goes to It (1941, reprinted as The Chalet School Goes to War), are the most famous, with Exile, which deals with the girls' encounters with Nazis and the school's escape from Austria, often being considered the single best entry in the series. The school relocates, rather ill-advisedly, to Guernsey, and in Goes to It the girls must again escape from the Nazis. The Highland Twins at the Chalet School (1942), Lavender Laughs in the Chalet School (1943), Gay From China at the Chalet School (1944), and Jo to the Rescue (1945) also take place in wartime. [Special thanks to Ruth for reminding me that Brent-Dyer belongs on this list and for providing details.]

(née Miller, other married name Mallowan, aka Mary Westmacott)
Bestselling novelist of all time, known for enormously popular and influential mystery novels, including The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), Murder on the Orient Express (1934), and And Then There Were None (1939), novels of domestic life as Mary Westmacott, and her bestselling Autobiography (1977). Christie notoriously avoided war in most of her mysteries, but her debut, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) takes place during World War I, with Colonel Hastings on leave from the front and Poirot himself a Belgian refugee (thank you for reminding me of this, Susan!), and The Secret Adversary (1922) takes place after the war but centers around a young American woman who has survived the sinking of the Lusitania (thank you for mentioning that, Jerri!). Only one of Christie's World War II-era novels, the Tommy and Tuppence thriller N or M, actually takes place during World War II. Other wartime mysteries proceed as if the war isn't happening, though at least one later mystery does acknowledge the war in retrospect—Taken at the Flood (1948) begins with a flashback to Poirot at his club during an air raid. Christie's Mary Westmacott novel, Absent in the Spring (1944), takes place during the war, but is set far from wartime concerns. Both wars are discussed in Christie's Autobiography.

Author of school stories and other children's fiction; Sims and Clare note her tendency toward unrealistic "thriller plots"; titles include A Term at Crossways (1939), Holly House School (1947), The School in the Dell (1948), and The Merryfield Mystery (1960). Presumably A School Goes to Scotland (1944) has to do with a school evacuated due to the war?

FANNY CRADOCK (1909-1994)
(pseudonym of Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey, aka Frances Dale)
Theatrical television chef and cookbook author who also wrote numerous novels under her own name and as Frances Dale; titles include Scorpion's Suicide (1942), Women Must Wait (1944), O Daughter of Babylon (1947), and a popular series beginning with The Lormes of Castle Rising (1975). Some of her Dale titles could have wartime settings, but certainly some of the later Castle Rising books deal with World War II.

MARY CROSBIE (1876-1958)
(pseudonym of Muriel Maud D'Oyley)
Author of six novels from the 1900s to 1920s, including the intriguing There and Back Again (1927), about a mother returning to her husband and children after abandoning them years before—after which their world is again disrupted by the outbreak of World War I. Other works include Kinsmen's Clay (1910), Escapade (1917), and The Old Road (1929).

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.

DOROTA FLATAU (1874-????)
(sometimes Dorothea, married name Swain or Wilkinson)
More research needed; novelist and children's author whose debut, Yellow English (1918), about a German spy in England during World War I, sounds propagandistic; Rif (1920) is a children's tale of a boy and girl having magical adventures; others include Joab the Lover (1921) and Lady o' London (1930).

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

(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).

(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, and Drink to Yesterday and Toast to Tomorrow, in particular, deal with the interconnectedness of World War I and World War II. [Thank you, Jerri, for this information and for reminding me that Manning belongs on this list!]

LESLEY STORM (1903-1975)
(pseudonym of Mabel Margaret Clark, née Cowie)
Screenwriter, playwright, and novelist, known for her treatment of gender issues and marriage. Her novels include Lady, What of Life? (1927), Robin and Robina (1931) and Just as I Am (1933), but she is largely remembered for her popular play Heart of a City (1942), which takes place during the Blitz and was made into a film. After this list first appeared, Grant Hurlock recommended another Storm play, Great Day. In his words: "It's an ensemble dramedy about WI ladies in a typical village prepping for a visit by Eleanor Roosevelt despite their class-based issues & personal problems." That sounds irresistible—like Marghanita Laski's The Village adapted for the stage, and Grant also noted that it was made into an entertaining film.  Thanks, Grant!

ETHEL M[ARY]. TALBOT (1880-1944)
One of the major authors of girls' school stories from 1919 to the 1940s; titles include The School on the Moor (1919), Betty at St Benedick's (1924), The School at None-Go-By (1926), Schoolgirl Rose (1928), The Mascot of the School (1934), and The Warringtons in War-Time (1940).

(married name Luling)
Novelist best known for The Hounds of Spring (1926), about the repercussions of World War I. The war is also a backdrop in The Rough Crossing (1921), and in Chariot Wheels (1929), according to Sharon Ouditt, "the war appears as snapshots of the past: a suffragette governess
becomes a WAAC; a mother cries when she sees her young son in uniform; a girl visits a wounded soldier." The Gulls Fly Inland (1941) is set during 1939-1940, so presumably includes some mentions of the war, but a contemporary review suggests that it focuses very much on interpersonal relations instead. And The People Opposite (1948) is set in the immediate postwar and deals lightly with two families—one rich and unhappy, the other poor and happy. Among the characters is a young invalided soldier trying to get back in the swing of things after a long hospitalization. Other of Thompson's titles include Battle of the Horizons (1928) Winter Comedy (1931), Breakfast in Bed (1934), and Third Act in Venice (1936).

(married name Hunt)
Author of three novels spread across more than 35 years, Wright is best known for Pilot's Wife's Tale (1942), a lightly fictionalized portrayal of her attempts to maintain a domestic life with her pilot husband during World War II, and his recovery from injuries sustained in the Battle of Britain. Wright's son Charles suggests that the book was published as a novel rather than a diary because censorship would not have allowed its details of locations and events to appear as nonfiction. Wright's other two novels are The Prophet Bird (1958), about a middle-class couple struggling in the postwar years, and A Vacant Chair (1979), a short eccentric tale involving two owners of a flower shop near Covent Garden in London.


  1. I'm lucky enough to have a copies of Wheelbarrow Farm and No halt at Sunset By Elizabeth Harland.
    My old copy of No halt at Sunset was first published in 1951 by Ernest Benn Limited London earlier than the date you have above, There is a note that says " The Greater portion of the entries in this " Housewifes Journal" were originally published by The Eastern Daily Press Of Norwich, by whose kind permission they are now reprinted" The EDP Newspaper is still going. They may know when she died. When I read both the above I thought they were both Non fiction

    So glad I found your blog as I'm making notes of many authors to look out for.

    1. Thanks for the date correction, Sue. An actual copy of the book with an earlier date is fairly definitive. I could even be wrong about the novel designation. Will double-check that too. Thanks!

  2. E M Delafield and Jan Anstruther ,or are these too obvious? Gill

    1. This post was just showing authors newly added or revised on the main list. Happily even I wasn't dizzy enough to forget those two, who are among my favorites. Whew!

    2. So sorry to have barged in at the end....I have now taken the time to go back through your magnificent blog and found the main list. Apologies again. I would still like to suggest Mary Norton, whose book "The Magic Bedknob" was published in 1945 and became better known as the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Will that do? :)

    3. No worries, Gill! Thanks so much for mentioning Norton. I had no idea those books made use of the war, but I was reading about them today. Will add Norton for version 3.0.

  3. Gosh, Scott, that cover art for Mysterious Affair at Styles! Nom d'un nom!

    I know there were a few nocturnal alarmums and excursions at Styles, awakening the various residents and guests, who hastily fling on their bathrobes. But really.... a bathrobe ONLY! And such a poorly fastened one as well.

    Really, how could such a portrayal appear on the same cover with the words "subtle deception." Oh wait, I get it. The reader is subtlely deceived into buying it.

    1. I had intended to comment on that cover, Susan. I don't recall Dame Agatha describing that exact outfit, either, but perhaps we just missed it?

    2. That cover gives a whole new meaning to The Mysterious AFFAIR at Styles!"


  4. Thanks, Scot, for your kind mention of me. In talking about WWI and WWII, and Manning Coles, how could I have forgotten the pair's only "straight" novel, This Fortress. Very hard to find, compared to the Tommy Hambledon or ghost books, it also links WWI and WWII.

    If my To Be Read pile wasn't so huge already I would be adding to it from every blog post you put up. But some of the one's mentioned here are necessary.


    1. I'll add a mention of that one in the NEXT update, Jerri. Thanks again for helping to fill in the gaps.

  5. I see others mentioned this young lady's "stunning" attire ont he Christie cover. My goodness. Scott, that aside - well, no, please, let's not push her robe aside! - I think it is amazing that yo can unearth such detail, so many titles - how do you ever find the time to do such mundane things as go to work, sleep, etc. Tom

    1. I think the simple answer, Tom, is that I'm quite obsessive compulsive. I do love my lists. Poor Andy, he has so many things to put up with. Perhaps I should make a list...


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