Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WORLD WAR II BOOK LIST (3 of 6) (updated 5/15/2016)

At long last it's time for part 3 of my list of books by British women dealing with World War II. I know you've all been waiting with bated breath…

In my post on part 2 of the list, I did a long-winded justification for splitting fiction about the war itself into two parts—the approach and early days of the war, and the later years when much of the fiction gets a bit darker. So I don't need to go into any long justifications this time around.

But actually, when I first thought of creating this list, I considered making an additional division—between the Blitz itself, with its attendant terrors and determined "stiff upper lip" attitudes, and the later years of the war, when most people seem to have been settled in for the painful and anxious but also dull and enervating long slog toward peace.

Marghanita Laski

I've always been fascinated, in both novels and diaries or memoirs, by how accustomed most people seem to have become, as time went on, to the looming threat of death and destruction. Lots of folks seem to have begun, in the early days of the Blitz, with a fair amount of understandable fear, hustling to the shelters as soon as a siren would sound. And yet within a few weeks or months, those same people are often eschewing the shelter or else relying on their own ability to detect the approach of planes before bothering to cease their normal activities. And by the advent of the buzz bomb a few years later, most Londoners, at least, if perhaps not everyone in less heavily blitzed areas, seem to have become old hands at judging exactly where the bombs were falling and what the relative risk was. Unimaginable to most of us, but fascinating to read about.

Edith Pargeter

Perhaps as a result of this, there are, I think, distinct differences in tone and themes between novels written while the Blitz raged—Phyllis Bottome's London Pride, for example, or Richmal Crompton's Mrs. Frensham Describes a Circle—and those written later—Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day, for example, or Marghanita Laski's To Bed with Grand Music, which I mentioned in my previous post. Of course, one can always hand-pick a few books that seem to fit a sweeping assertion, but it does seem to me that there's another real shift in tone to be identified in these years.

Ultimately, though, as interesting as this shift is to consider, I realized that creating another subdivision in my list was quite a difficult task (especially considering the significant number of books that I know very little about). And it also might have been a bit too obsessive on my part, and perhaps not all that useful to readers.

Detail from a charming Spanish edition of Stella Gibbons' Westwood

Thus, here we have my list of fiction written either during the war or immediately after it ended, and set any time from the beginning of the Blitz (more or less—it isn't always an exact science determining exactly when a story is set) until the end of the war. (I should also offer a reminder that I have a separate section of the list for "retrospective" fiction about the war, which includes works written post-1950—I'll explain the justification for that distinction when that section is posted.)

This is by far the longest of the sections of this list, with the predictable result that it was horribly difficult to select my top five this time around. But, after much agonizing, here goes:


ELIZABETH BOWEN, The Heat of the Day (1948)
STELLA GIBBONS, Westwood (1946)
NORAH HOULT, House Under Mars (1946)
URSULA ORANGE, Tom Tiddler's Ground (aka Ask Me No Questions) (1941)
MOLLIE PANTER-DOWNES, Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories (1999)

Mollie Panter-Downes

So many favorites left out—alas that I didn't start off doing top 10 lists instead of top 5s!  I had to leave out the likes of Barbara Noble and Elizabeth Goudge and Joyce Dennys, all of whom I love, plus Norah Hoult's other (more accessible) masterwork, There Were No Windows (I went back and forth on those two for quite some time). I even had to leave out another favorite by D. E. Stevenson, The Two Mrs. Abbotts. But as much as I hate to leave these (and other) favorites off of my list, ultimately the five above were the ones I just couldn't imagine not listing.

What else do you think I overlooked?

T H E   T H I C K   O F   I T

RUTH ADAM, Murder in the Home Guard (1942)

Hard-to-find but worthwhile mystery set during the Blitz.

ROSE ALLATINI, Destination Unknown (1942)

Deals with a large Jewish family in London, some of whom are refugees now working as domestic helpers

ROSE ALLATINI, Blue Danube (1943)

Traces a Jewish family over several generations, ending in London during World War II.

MARGERY ALLINGHAM, Coroner's Pidgin (1945)

Campion tracking art thieves during the wa, while Lugg keeps a pig in a bomb shelter as his war work.

MARJORIE APPLETON, Anything Can Happen (1942)

Novel about a domestic servant conscripted into work in a munitions factory.

MARJORIE APPLETON, Under One Roof (1943)

Details are scarce on this title—perhaps dealing with evacuees?

HELEN ASHTON, Tadpole Hall (1941)

The story of "gentle, retiring Colonel Heron and his home, Tadpole Hall, the leisurely tradition they both represent and the incursions which war brings."

HELEN ASHTON, Yeoman's Hospital (1944)

Entertaining melodrama set at a village hospital during wartime.

KITTY BARNE, We'll Meet in England (1942)

Warimte adventure about two children from Norway escaping to England by boat.

KITTY BARNE, While the Music Lasted (1943)

Family story beginning in the late 1930s and ending in wartime.

MABEL BARNES-GRUNDY, Paying Pests (1941)

MABEL BARNES-GRUNDY, Mary Ann and Jane (1944)

MABEL BARNES-GRUNDY, The Two Miss Speckles (1946)

Wartime novels by humorous novelist; presumably some war-related content, but details are very sketchy.

HELEN BEAUCLERK, So Frail a Thing (1940)

HELEN BEAUCLERK, Shadows on the Wall (1941)

HELEN BEAUCLERK, Where the Treasure Is (1944)

According to Contemporary Authors, these novels "depict the lives of men and women as they intertwine during World War II." That's all I know.

JOSEPHINE BELL, Martin Croft (1941)

About a man wounded in World War I for whom Dunkirk is a healing experience.

JOSEPHINE BELL, Trouble at Wrekin Farm (1942)

Mystery novel rife with Home Guard concerns, fifth columnists, and other wartime atmosphere.

JOSEPHINE BELL, Death at the Medical Board (1944)

Mystery about the sudden death of a young woman as she's about to sign up for the women's services.

MARY HAYLEY BELL, Men in Shadow (1942)

Hit play focused on the French Resistance.

ELIZABETH BERRIDGE, Tell It to a Stranger (1947, aka Selected Stories)

A powerful collection of stories, including several making very effective use of the Blitz and other wartime elements.

URSULA BLOOM, Caravan for Three (1947)

A wartime holiday adventure story.

PHYLLIS BOTTOME, London Pride (1941)

A true Blitz novel with real political concerns, focused particularly on a poor family, their young son, and a neighbor girl dodging bombs and wrestling with issues of poverty, evacuation, and looting.

PHYLLIS BOTTOME, Without the Cup (1943, aka Survival)

Also focused on the Blitz, though I know less about this one.

ELIZABETH BOWEN, The Heat of the Day (1948)

Considered a classic of "Blitz lit," one critic called it a Graham Greene thriller filtered through the sensibility of Virginia Woolf.

ELIZABETH BOWEN, Collected Impressions (1950)

Includes several non-fiction pieces about the war.

ELIZABETH BOWEN, Collected Stories (1980)

Includes all of Bowen's wartime stories, including several of her most famous.

DOROTHY BOWERS, Fear and Miss Betony (1941)

Beautifully-written, melancholy mystery set in a girls' boarding school evacuated to Dorset.

CHRISTIANNA BRAND, Heads You Lose (1942)

Mystery set in a snowed-in country house during the war, but apparently making relatively little use of its wartime setting.

CHRISTIANNA BRAND, Green for Danger (1942)

Brand's most famous mystery is set in a hospital during World War II and is thick with the atmosphere of bombings and blackout.

CHRISTIANNA BRAND, Suddenly at His Residence (1946), (ake The Crooked Wreath)

Though published after the war, this mystery apparently makes effective use of blackout and Blitz.

ANGELA BRAZIL, The Mystery of the Moated Grange (1942)

ANGELA BRAZIL, The Secret of the Border Castle (1943)

Late Brazil tales, both set in evacuated schools.

ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, The Chalet School in Exile (1940)

Deals with the Chalet girls' encounters with Nazis and the school's escape from Austria to Guernsey.

ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, The Chalet School Goes to It (1941)

The Chalet girls must again escape, this time to Wales, as the Nazis sieze control of Guernsey.

ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, The Highland Twins at the Chalet School (1942)

ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, Lavender Laughs in the Chalet School (1943)

ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, Gay From China at the Chalet School (1944)

ELINOR M. BRENT-DYER, Jo to the Rescue (1945)

Additional wartime entries in the Chalet School series, all with a backdrop of war.

VERA BRITTAIN, Account Rendered (1945)

Pacifist novel dealing with a shell-shocked doctor on trial for murder.

CAROL BROOKE, Light and Shade (1947)

Romantic novel apparently set during the war.

DORITA FAIRLIE BRUCE, Dimsie Carries On (1941)

DORITA FAIRLIE BRUCE, Toby at Tibbs Cross (1943)

DORITA FAIRLIE BRUCE, Nancy Calls the Tune (1944)

Wartime entries for each of Bruce's three popular series characters.

KATE MARY BRUCE, Figures in Black-Out (1941)

Details are lacking, but presumably a wartime entry in Bruce's light, entertaining oeuvre.

ELIZABETH CARFRAE, The Lonely Road (1942)

Elizabeth Maslen: "the debate between pacifism and commitment to war are at the core of the romance."

ELIZABETH CARFRAE, Penny Wise (1945)

Another wartime romance, but details are vague.

ELIZABETH CARFRAE, Good Morning, Miss Morrison (1948)

Romantic novel about a teacher in a girls' school and her choice between "a steady-Eddie type and a glamorous fighter pilot during wartime."

HESTER W. CHAPMAN, Long Division (1943)

About an unhappily-married woman who starts a prep school during the war years.

BRIDGET CHETWYND, Sleeping and Waking (1944)

Described, rather vaguely, as dealing with women's lives in World War II.


Christie's one wartime mystery actually set during the war—Tommy and Tuppence track an undercover German agent.

AGATHA CHRISTIE, Absent in the Spring (1944)

One of Christie's Mary Westmacott novels, set in the Middle East as a woman reflects on her life while waiting for a train. The war remains firmly in the background.

EILEEN HELEN CLEMENTS, Cherry Harvest (1943)

Mystery novel set on a crumbling country estate to which a girls' school has been evacuated.


A thriller set in an English village, in which a visiting actor might be a German spy.

MARJORIE CLEVES, A School Goes to Scotland (1944)

I'm assuming this girls' school story deals with a school evacuated to Scotland, but I could be wrong?

MARGARET COLE (w. G. D. H. Cole), Toper's End (1942)

Far-fetched (and reportedly anti-Semitic) thriller about murder among a team of scientists.

LETTICE COOPER, Black Bethlehem (1947)

Three novellas, two about the war—one featuring an injured war hero adapting to home life, the other about a woman who takes in a shady refugee.

MARCH COST (as Margaret Morrison) & PAMELA TULK-HART, Paid to Be Safe (1942)

Focused on women in the Air Transport Auxiliary, whose "lives turn out to be an odd blend of strenuous activity, flying jargon, bridge hands and romance."

RICHMAL CROMPTON, Mrs. Frensham Describes a Circle (1942)

Entertaining tale of a woman who, having lost her husband, re-engages with life by involving herself in the affairs of others.


Compilation of several of William's wartime misadventures.

PRIMROSE CUMMING, Silver Eagle Carries On (1940)

A family-run riding school struggles with wartime limitations.

PRIMROSE CUMMING, Owls Castle Farm (1942)

Based on Cumming's own experiences as a Land Girl.

E. M. DELAFIELD, Late and Soon (1943)

Deals with a widow taking in evacuees.

JOYCE DENNYS, Henrietta’s War (1985)

Hilarious fictionalized letters about home front life, first published in Sketch magazine during World War II.

JOYCE DENNYS, Henrietta Sees It Through (1986) (written during war)

More of Dennys's fictionalized letters from Sketch magazine.

MONICA DICKENS, The Fancy (1943)

Makes use of Dickens' experiences working in a wartime factory.

SUSAN ERTZ, Anger in the Sky (1943)

Blitz novel critiqued by Saturday Review as "a little unduly hopeful about the good effects which will result from the war."

GWENDOLEN FEATHERSTONHAUGH, Caroline's First Term (1947)

Girls' school story making fun use of wartime cliches, including a science mistress who may be a Nazi spy.

MONICA FELTON, To All the Living (1945)

Novel dealing with wartime factory life in England.

RACHEL FERGUSON, The Late Widow Twankey (1943)

Even odder than Ferguson's norm; set during wartime in an English village apparently possessed by the characters of pantomime.

ELIZABETH FERRARS, I, Said the Fly (1945)

Mystery set in London just before and at the very end of World War II

ELIZABETH FERRARS, Murder Among Friends (1946, aka Cheat the Hangman)

Mystery set during the war.

CAROL FORREST, The House of Simon (1942)

An intriguing wartime tale of abandoned children making their own home.

PAMELA FRANKAU, The Willow Cabin (1949)

Takes place partially during the war, with the heroine leading a rather drab life in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

DIANA GARDNER, The Woman Novelist and Other Stories (2006)

Persephone edition including most of the stories from Gardner's Halfway Down the Cliff (1946), including "The Land Girl," about a girl from the Women's Land Army who breaks up her hosts' marriage.

STELLA GIBBONS, The Bachelor (1944)

One of Gibbons' darker novels, featuring an unpalatable refugee girl disrupting a family's comfortable home life.

STELLA GIBBONS, Westwood (1946)

My favorite Gibbons, making 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.

CONSTANCE GODDARD, Come Wind, Come Weather (1945)

About farm life in wartime.

CONSTANCE GODDARD, Three at Cherry-Go-Gay (1949)

Another wartime story, this one about evacuees in Devonshire.

ELIZABETH GOUDGE, The Castle on the Hill (1942)

Goudge's surprisingly complex and profound exploration of good and evil in a wartime setting.

ELIZABETH M. HARLAND, Farmer's Girl (1942)

Deals with a Londoner's experience as a Land Girl.

ELIZABETH M. HARLAND, Two Ears of Corn (1943)

Also dealing with wartime life on a farm.

KATHLEEN HEWITT, Lady Gone Astray (1941)

Thriller about a young heiress who develops amnesia after being attacked in the blackout, and copes with shady refugees.

KATHLEEN HEWITT, The Mice Are Not Amused (1942)

Energetic tale of a legal secretary who takes a job as head porter at an apartment building infested with fifth columnists.

KATHLEEN HEWITT, Plenty Under the Counter (1943)

Novel about the wartime black market.

DIANA MURRAY HILL, Ladies May Now Leave Their Machines (1944)

Novel about women factory workers in World War II.

LORNA HILL, Northern Lights (1999)

One of Hill's Marjorie stories; when she published them after the war, this one was refused because of it's wartime themes, and was only finally published in recent years.

INEZ HOLDEN, Night Shift (1941)

A powerful episodic portrayal of life in a wartime aircraft factory.

INEZ HOLDEN, There's No Story There (1944)

Rather bleak but quite interesting tale set in a vast ordnance factory, where a snowstorm strands workers for a night.

INEZ HOLDEN, To the Boating (1945)

Story collection featuring several tales of wartime life.

NORAH HOULT, Scene for Death (1943)

A sort of experimental reinvention of the murder mystery, set in an English village during the thick of the war.

NORAH HOULT, There Were No Windows (1944)

Brilliant novel of an elderly woman battling dementia during the Blitz.

NORAH HOULT, House Under Mars (1946)

Dark but powerful portrait of boarding-house life in the late years of the year.

MARGARET ILES, Nobody's Darlings (1942)

Novel apparently about evacuees in an English village.

NORAH C. JAMES, Enduring Adventure (1944)

Recommended by Grant Hurlock as an entertaining example of "blitz lit."

STORM JAMESON, The Fort (1941)

Uses the form of a Greek drama in a tale of French and English soldiers trapped in a cellar as the Nazis approach.

STORM JAMESON, Then We Shall Hear Singing: A Fantasy in C Major (1942)

Described by Elizabeth Maslen as "a poignant fable addressing the Czech tragedy."

STORM JAMESON, Cloudless May (1943)

Novel dealing with the capitulation of France.

STORM JAMESON, The Journal of Mary Hervey Russell (1945)

Somewhat autobiographical fictionalized diary, often considered among Jameson's best work.

STORM JAMESON, The Green Man (1952)

An epic war novel and bestseller, tracing nearly two decades of the leadup to the war and the war itself.

PAMELA HANSFORD JOHNSON, Winter Quarters (1943)

Focuses on an army battery stationed in a small English village.

BARBARA KAYE, Home Fires Burning (1943)

Details are lacking, but presumably a wartime tale.

SUSAN ALICE KERBY, Miss Carter and the Ifrit (1945)

A middle-aged spinster wrestling with the deprivations of the late war years encounters a genie who helps her rediscover the pleasures of life.

FLORENCE KILPATRICK, Elizabeth in Wartime (1942)

Wartime entry in her humorous series of Elizabeth books.

MARGARET LANE, Where Helen Lies (1944)

Romantic melodrama set against the backdrop of the home front.

MARGHANITA LASKI, Love on the Supertax (1944)

Enjoyable light tale of class, romance, and the black market.

MARGHANITA LASKI, To Bed with Grand Music (1946)

Originally published pseudonymously, a darker tale of a young wife whose husband is serving abroad, whose boredom leads her into a series of affairs.

ROSAMOND LEHMANN, The Gypsy's Baby and Other Stories (1946)

Collection in which the war figures prominently in several stories.

DORIS LESLIE, House in the Dust (1942)

Novel mostly told in flashback to earlier years, but the framing sections take place during the Blitz.

LORNA LEWIS, Tea and Hot Bombs (1943)

Impossible-to-find Blitz novel, possibly for children?

LORNA LEWIS, Feud in the Factory (1944)

Follow-up to Tea and Hot Bombs, presumably about wartime factory work.

ROSE MACAULAY, "Miss Anstruther's Letters"

Story based on Macaulay's own experience of being bombed out and her loss of a life's collection of letters, books and papers.

HELEN MACINNES, Above Suspicion (1941)

HELEN MACINNES, Assignment in Brittany (1942)

HELEN MACINNES, While Still We Live (1944)

HELEN MACINNES, Horizon (1945)

Spy novels and thrillers, all with wartime settings.


My sole information is a review calling it "[a] heart-warming story of human kindness in a world at war."

ETHEL MANNIN, The Dark Forest (1945)

Pacifist author's look at "a tragedy born of fraternisation, one of the most highly charges contemporary issues."

ADELAIDE MANNING (w. Cyril Henry Coles, as Manning Coles), Green Hazard (1945)

ADELAIDE MANNING (w. Cyril Henry Coles, as Manning Coles), The Fifth Man (1946)

Two more entries in the Manning Coles series of humorous spy novels, these set in or after 1941.

OLIVIA MANNING, Growing Up (1948)

Includes several stories written during and immediately after the war.

EILEEN MARSH, We Lived in London (1942)

Enjoyable tale of a working class family during the Blitz.

EILEEN MARSH, A Walled Garden (1943)

Novel about evacuees in a village in Kent.

EILEEN MARSH, Eight Over Essen (1943)

Novel about the crew of a bomber during a one week leave.

BETTY MILLER, On the Side of the Angels (1945)

Deals powerfully with gender roles as revealed by wartime experiences.

GLADYS MITCHELL, Sunset Over Soho (1943)

Mystery with Dame Beatrice working as a doctor at a shelter for air raid casualties and bombed-out refugees.

ALICE MOLONY, Lion's Crouch (1944)

Children's book—"an exciting story about spies in Cornwall."

ELINOR MORDAUNT, Blitz Kids (1941)

A humorous look at children in wartime.

JOAN MORGAN, Ding Dong Dell (1943)

Novel focused on wartime refugees.

NORAH MYLREA, Spies at Candover (1941)

Girls' school story set in an evacuated school.

BARBARA NOBLE, The House Opposite (1943)

Novel about an illicit love affair in London during the Blitz.

BARBARA NOBLE, Doreen (1946)

Powerful novel (reprinted by Persephone) about a young evacuee in World War II; makes excellent use of Noble's interest in child psychology.

MARY NORTON, The Magic Bed-Knob (1943)

MARY NORTON, Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947)

Children's books about a nanny learning to be a witch; the first at least takes place during the war and includes a scene in London during the Blitz.

JANE OLIVER, The Hour of the Angel (1942)

Blitz novel, whose main character's husband is in the RAF.

JANE OLIVER, In No Strange Land (1944)

Details are scarce, and its war themes are peripheral at best—appears to be a historical novel that may end during the war (??).

URSULA ORANGE, Tom Tiddler's Ground (1941, aka Ask Me No Questions)

Wonderful wartime tale of a young mother evacuated to the countryside who snoops into village affairs.

URSULA ORANGE, Have Your Cake (1942)

Presumably set during the war as its predecessor and successor are, but I've found no details.

URSULA ORANGE, Company in the Evening (1944)

Darker tale about discordant housemates during the late years of the war and a divorced couple who bond again as a result.

MOLLIE PANTER-DOWNES, Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories (1999)

Wonderful stories originally published in The New Yorker, detailing the oddities and humor of wartime situations.

EDITH PARGETER, She Goes to War (1942)

Diary-novel based on Pargeter's own experiences in the WRNS; paints an often vivid and detailed picture of the dangers and opportunities.

EDITH PARGETER, The Lame Crusade (1945)

EDITH PARGETER, Reluctant Odyssey (1946)

EDITH PARGETER, Warfare Accomplished (1947)

Trilogy (cumulatively known as The Eighth Champion of Christendom) which follows a young man from an English village who experiences warfare and returns home a changed man.

WINIFRED PECK, House-Bound (1942)

Charming comedy about a woman surviving without servants in wartime Edinburgh.

WINIFRED PECK, There Is a Fortress (1945)

Mostly historical, beginning just after World War I and continuing into World War II.

SHEILA PIM, Common or Garden Crime (1945)

Mystery that vividly portrays wartime life in an Irish village.

JOCELYN PLAYFAIR, A House in the Country (1944)

Rather philosophical novel set in 1942, about a woman dealing with boarders and family in the English countryside while her lover is in a lifeboat after his boat is torpedoed.

DORIS POCOCK, Lorna on the Land (1946)

Wartime children's book about Land Girls.

EVADNE PRICE, Jane at War (1947)

Another wartime entry in her popular series.

VIRGINIA PYE, Half-Term Holiday (1943)

Entry in her Price family series, set during the war.

BARBARA PYM, "Home Front Novel" (from Civil to Strangers)

Early short work set during the war and only published posthumously.

BARBARA PYM, "So Very Secret" (from Civil to Strangers)

Described by Pym as a "spy story," another early short work.

DOROTHY UNA RATCLIFFE, Mrs. Buffey in Wartime (1942)

Fictionalized memoir about Ratcliffe's wartime experiences.

MARY RENAULT, The Friendly Young Ladies (1944)

Matter-of-fact portrayal of a lesbian couple living on a houseboat during World War II.

E. ARNOT ROBINSON, The Signpost (1943)

Novel about a wounded RAF pilot and his relationship with a French woman in a remote Irish fishing village.

JEAN ROSS, Aunt Ailsa (1944)

About English family life from World War I into World War II.

VITA SACKVILLE-WEST, Grand Canyon (1941)

Her foray into sci-fi, imagining the outcome of a German victory in the war.

MAUREEN SARSFIELD, Green December Fills the Graveyard (1945)

Mystery set in a partially-bombed out manor house in the late years of the war. Reprinted with the bland title Murder at Shots Hall.

CONSTANCE SAVERY, Enemy Brothers (1943)

About a British airman who believes that a young German prison is actually his brother, who had been kidnapped many years before.

DOROTHY L. SAYERS, Striding Folly (1971)

Collection of Lord Peter stories, which includes one story written during the war.

MARGERY SHARP, Britannia Mews (1946)

Novel that covers a lot of ground in its heroine's life but end up during World War II.

JANE SHAW, House of the Glimmering Light (1943)

Popular girls' author's wartime spy story.

MARGUERITE STEEN, Shelter (1942)

Blitz novel which makes some use of the experimental techniques of modernism.

D. E. STEVENSON, Spring Magic (1941)

Young woman takes her first holiday, to a fishing village in Scotland during the war.

D. E. STEVENSON, Crooked Adam (1942)

Stevenson's foray into World War II spy novels, set in Scotland.

D. E. STEVENSON, Celia's House (1943)

A family story beginning in 1905 and ending up in 1942. The wartime scenes are short and only at the very end of the novel.

D. E. STEVENSON, The Two Mrs. Abbotts (1943)

Wartime entry in Stevenson's Miss Buncle series, featuring brave soldiers, rationing, and a German parachutist.

D. E. STEVENSON, Listening Valley (1944)

Beginning in the 1930s and progressing to wartime London and Scotland.

D. E. STEVENSON, The Four Graces (1946)

Loosely connected to The Two Mrs. Abbotts, this entry takes place in the final days of the war.

LESLEY STORM, Heart of a City (1942)

Hit play set during the Blitz.

LESLEY STORM, Great Day (1945)

Members of a village Women's Institute in 1942 attempt to overcome personal and class differences to prepare for a visit from Eleanor Roosevelt.

NOEL STREATFEILD, The Children of Primrose Lane (1941)

Children's adventure story written during the Blitz and making use of wartime atmosphere.

NOEL STREATFEILD, I Ordered a Table for Six (1942)

Blitz novel tracking six individuals in the days before they'll be together in the midst of an air raid.

NOEL STREATFEILD, Summer Pudding (1943)

One of her Susan Scarlett romances, a cheerful comedy making use of wartime elements.

NOEL STREATFEILD, Harlequinade (1943)

Children's title in which a group of circus children are sent to the countryside to ride out the war.

NOEL STREATFEILD, Murder While You Work (1944)

A Susan Scarlett novel, combining elements of romance and mystery in a wartime factory setting.

NOEL STREATFEILD, Curtain Up (1944)

Children's book set against a backdrop of the war. Note that most subsequent reprints of the book edit out the war-related content.

NOEL STREATFEILD, Saplings (1945)

Reprinted by Persephone, a powerful examination of the ways in which the tragedies of war scar a family.

NOEL STREATFEILD, Party Frock (1946)

Also about children living in an English village at the very end and immediately after the war; one character's parents are in a prison camp.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, At Mrs. Lippincote's (1945)

Taylor's first novel wonderfully evokes the fatigue and strain of the final phase of the war.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR, Complete Short Stories (2012)

Includes several early stories making use of wartime concerns and settings.

ANGELA THIRKELL, Northbridge Rectory (1941)

ANGELA THIRKELL, Marling Hall (1942)

ANGELA THIRKELL, Growing Up (1943)

ANGELA THIRKELL, The Headmistress (1944)

ANGELA THIRKELL, Miss Bunting (1945)

Entries in the popular Barsetshire Chronicles, all prominently dealing with wartime concerns as well as charming social comedy.

BARBARA EUPHAN TODD, Miss Ranskill Comes Home (1946)

Reprinted by Persephone, a comedy about a woman who has been marooned on an island and returns to find England in the thick of war.

MARY TREADGOLD, We Couldn't Leave Dinah (1941)

About children who miss the evacuation of a fictional Channel island (because they can't leave their horse behind) and end up aiding the resistance to the Nazis.

FRANCES TURK, The Five Grey Geese (1944)

Cheerful romance about five young women in the Land Army.

FRANCES TURK, Candle Corner (1943)

Romance about an RAF pilot recovering from injuries on a farm.

SUSAN TWEEDSMUIR, The Rainbow Through the Rain (1950)

My information is sketchy—apparently partly set in England and partly in Canada, and at least some of it takes place during World War II.

SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER, A Garland of Straw (1943)

Collection of stories, many of which are set during wartime.

SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER, The Museum of Cheats (1947)

Another collection of stories featuring several with wartime settings.

PATRICIA WENTWORTH, The Chinese Shawl (1943)

PATRICIA WENTWORTH, Miss Silver Deals With Death (aka Miss Silver Intervenes) (1944)

PATRICIA WENTWORTH, The Clock Strikes Twelve (1944)


Entries in the popular Miss Silver mystery series, all set against a background of war, though some make more use of this atmosphere than others.

DOROTHY WHIPPLE, The Closed Door and Other Stories (????)

Though the title novella was published before the war, some of the other stories were written and are set during the war.

BARBARA WHITTON, Green Hands (1943)

Energetic, optimistic novel about young women in the Land Army.


Rare novel about a group of women translators in the Ministry of Foreign Intelligence.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid"

One of her final essays, originally appearing in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942) but often reprinted in other collections.

ESTHER TERRY WRIGHT, Pilot's Wife's Tale (1942)

Lightly fictionalized diary of life with her pilot husband during World War II, including his recovery from injuries sustained in the Battle of Britain.


  1. I don't know if I will beat Tom, but Thirkell had two more novels set during the war, Miss Bunting and Peace Breaks Out. Peace Breaks Out shows both VE and VJ day. And Miss B is certainly still war time. And in D. E. Stevenson, Celia's House starts well before the war, but it's final section is set during the war. (There is actually a section earlier that deals with WWI.) And The Four Graces is set in the final days of the war, but still war time.


    1. Thank you, Jerri. I haven't read those two Thirkells yet. Based on a review I read, I put Peace Breaks Out into my Postwar section, as it seems to begin at the very end of the war, but mostly takes place after it has ended. Or is that an inaccurate review? But Miss Bunting was just an oversight. And thanks for pointing out the Stevensons that belong here (and thanks to Susan, who did the same via email!).

      For my Postwar list, I'll bet there are Stevensons that would fit which I haven't yet read. I'll look forward to suggestions from DESsies on that section as well!

    2. Scot,

      You need a copy of "Going to Barsetshire" by Cynthia Snowden. One of the most delightful reference books I have ever encountered. One of the many perks to joining the Angela Thirkell Society of North America is that the society owns a number of copies, obtained from the author when they were going out of print, and they sell them to members. ($15 per year membership, and $15 postage paid in the US for the book, end of advertisement!) Contact me at for more information.

      Back to the question at hand, Peace Breaks Out is set in the summer of 1945. VE day takes place fairly early in the book, VJ day takes place well along in the book. I would start the "post war" Thirkell titles with Private Enterprise and Love Among the Ruins.

      As to DES, there will be a number of them in the "WWII books written after 1950" section, and some very good ones too.

    3. I'll be asking for help from readers on both the postwar and retrospective sections of the list, Jerri, especially on books that I haven't read myself, so feel free to email me your suggestions for DES. There are still a lot of her later novels that I haven't gotten round to. Thirkell too, obviously, and many many more as well, no doubt.

      Clearly, I'm going to have to read Peace Breaks Out for myself, but I do feel--based on other descriptions I've come across as well as yours--that it fits rather well with what I'm trying to get at in the postwar list--the transition back to peace and recovery and the hardships to come. But of course with a novel about the transition from war to peace, it may just not fit perfectly on either list (or perhaps it should go on both?).

  2. I enjoyed your post and list. I must say, it is outrageous when later printings of a title edit out the war time backgrounds, presumably to make the story seem "more up to date". Bah Humbug to them. Sorry I can't say which title this was, I was called away in the middle of my comment and can't find it again!


    1. Now I find the title I was looking for before. It is Curtain Up that had the later editions edited to remove the war.

      Also, did you intend to include Woolfe's diary and letters in this "fiction" list? Or an error in moving things from one list to another? Also Pym's diary?


    2. Agree completely. I wanted to read Curtain Up, but there have been so many editions of it and the first is, of course, very pricey, but I've never known which of the others (if any) are unedited. So I've just never read it at all.

      You're also right about the Woolf and Pym. Their inclusion here is just evidence of how late in the process the idea of a diaries and memoirs section came to me. I'll move them over.

  3. Yes, Jerri, you beat me! AND - drat you, Scott! I scrolled down, awaiting the EXCLUSION of my big three faves - but there they all are! I cannot carp about ANYTHING! So instead, I praise and compliment by saying - once again, your hard work and thoroughness stun me! AND add to my impossible list of things to read - someday!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Tom. But now you're teasing us my mentioning your "big three faves" and then not telling us what they are!

    2. Well, of course, in alphabetical order, D.E. Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, and Patricia Wentworth. But to round out the TOP FIVE are also Barbara Pym, and Sheila Pim, who you do NOT write about, Scott. Oh, no! Another author you must look up and start on! HA!

  4. I found another Angela Brazil wartime story at a jumble sale a few years ago. This was also about a school being evacuated, this time to the Welsh borders, to a thinly disguised Leominster. It was called "The Mystery of the Moated Grange", dated 1942, and was quite an interesting mystery story as I remember.

    1. Thank you, Michelle Ann! I'll add that one to the list when I make an update (probably a bit later today). I wonder if other Brazil titles published in wartime contained wartime themes or if it was merely somewhere in the background. I'll need a Brazil expert to know for sure...

  5. How interesting to see a photograph of Edith Pargeter young -- I'm so used to seeing that one photo (over and over again) from the "Cadfael" author blurb. She looks quite wry, doesn't she!

    What a fantastic list, Scott! I'm always fascinated by homefront stories -- I look forward to reading lots of these.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the list, Jeanne. I do love that photo of Pargeter too. She looks like someone one would quite like to have tea with, doesn't she?

  6. My comments would have been almost the same as Jerri's except I sent them off list. Scott, you must be amazed at how Dessies think alike.

    And Cheers! I just came home from a few days away to find Mollie Panter-Downes's London War Notes in my mailbox. A large treat for myself.

    Last night I pulled up the movie Green For Danger. It's on Youtube, so anyone can watch it. Interesting that it was filmed so close to the war years (1946), it's like a peep through time. Alistair Sim is delightful as the eccentric inspector.

    1. I'm sure you'll enjoy the Panter-Downes book, Susan. What a treat! I'm also a fan of the Green for Danger film--one of those relatively rare times when a film of a book really does it justice, I think.

      As for DESsies thinking alike, I'm just very grateful to benefit from both your and Jerri's vast knowledge!

  7. You work really hard on this blog Scott.It is a joy to read and reread it all.

  8. Another great list - I've only read 2 of your 5 top ones, which actually makes me happy that I have 3 more treats in store.

    1. Thank you Vicki. I hope you enjoy all of them (and are able to find them!).

  9. You do not mention Monica Felton TO ALL THE LIVING which is reviewed in the blog READING 1900 TO 1950.They mention a few other books set in the war as well.


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