Thursday, June 4, 2015

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

Pamphlet reproduced in
Jaqueline Mitchell's Blitz Spirit

6) Other Non-fiction

Other Non-fiction (miscellaneous / historical / anthologies / critical)

When I decided to dedicate one portion of this list to, basically, “everything else,” including a sort of bibliography of critical works of particular interest to fans of the wartime middlebrow—something I have promised before but never delivered—I didn’t quite realize how much work it would take. Even having made a conscious decision to include only those works either written by women from my Overwhelming List or specifically dealing with the home front, domestic life in wartime, or women’s writing during the war, it took longer to compile this post than any of the other five. That said, though, it's been quite interesting and I’m happy to have finally pulled it together.

One of my favorite books about the war has
one of my favorite photos on its cover

This catch-all post includes four sections. Only the first, the “miscellaneous” portion of the list, is limited almost completely to authors who qualify for my Overwhelming List. That part is really just odds and ends, war-related works written by women from my list and possibly of interest, but not fitting into any of the other sections of this list. The “historical” part contains a few more of my list authors. Otherwise, though, this post is the one section of my World War II list primarily containing late 20th century and early 21st century authors writing about the war.

The remaining sections should be fairly self-explanatory. “Anthologies” include any kind of collection of contemporary writings from the war written by a variety of authors—collections of diaries, stories, memoirs, poetry, etc. There are doubtless many more that I’ve left out—I haven't done a thorough survey myself—so by all means share your own recommendations and I’ll be happy to add them. These are just the ones I’m currently familiar with and which seem of the most interest.

“Critical” writings are, of course, works about the literature of the war. I’ve limited these to works that seem either to have a specific focus on women’s writing or to at least significantly represent women in their analyses (there are many more critical works that would make an unwary reader believe that women were surely unable to read and write during the war rather than, in fact, very much dominating the literary output of the time). I’ve only read a handful of the critical texts (though I am always meaning to get around to more), so I can’t address which are the most informative or which might get bogged down in academic lingo. Two definite recommendations, however, as I’ve mentioned here before, are Jenny Hartley’s Millions Like Us, an excellent and non-academic overview of the concerns of women writers during the war, and Elizabeth Maslen’s "Women Writers in World War II," a concise article packed with ideas and titles of significant works.

A poster reproduced in Blitz Spirit

In all cases, these lists are not at all definitive or completely inclusive. They are merely some of the books I've come across that seem like they might be of interest to readers of this blog.

The initimitable Edith Sitwell, whose war poems are
among her best-known works

I decided, for one thing, not to include general histories or overviews of the entire war, because there are so many of them and most are not focused specifically on domestic life or women's lives more generally. But I can't resist mentioning two more favorites that you might enjoy if you haven't already come across them. Angus Calder's The People's War is considered a pivotal work on the home front and is a great place to start if you have a general interest (his later The Myth of the Blitz is also quite interesting), and Philip Ziegler's London at War is my personal favorite, more an anecdotal look at life in the blacked-out capital city than a straight history. Both are quite enjoyable.

In this section of the list, by the way, I am only commenting on some of the titles, since many are self-explanatory. And I will note, yet again, that I’ve only personally read a fraction of the books listed. Most are on my TBR list though—and if I live to be 173 I will probably get around to all of them!


CATHERINE MARY CHRISTIAN, The Big Test: The Story of the Girl Guides in the World War (1947)

Popular girls' author takes a look at the Guides' role in the war.

CLEMENCE DANE, The Shelter Book (1940)

Subtitled "A Gathering of Tales, Poems, Essays, Notes, and Notions…for Use in Shelters, Tubes, Basements and Cellars in War-Time."

LEONORA EYLES, Eating Well in Wartime (1940)

Novelist's foray into cookbooks, helping families cope with rationing.

ANNA FREUD, Infants without Families: Reports on the Hampstead Nurseries, 1939-1945 (1944)

Not from my Overwhelming List, obviously, and not of interest to everyone, but this was a pioneering work of child psychology based on Freud’s studies of children orphaned and traumatized by war.

VIRGINIA GRAHAM, Consider the Years 1938-1946 (2000)

Collection of Graham's (mostly) humorous poems about wartime life, reprinted by Persephone.

MARTIN HARE (writing anonymously), The Dark Side of the Moon (1946)

Account of Soviet brutality against the Poles during WWII, published anonymously, probably to protect family living in Poland.

ELIZABETH HAWES, Why Women Cry (1943)

An American title that might be of interest to some readers, detailing Hawes' own experiences airplane factory and analyzing the position of women laborers.

ELSPETH HUXLEY, Atlantic Ordeal: The Story of Mary Cornish (1941)

Story of the nurse who helped a group of children in a lifeboat survive after the sinking of the City of Benares.

F. TENNYSON JESSE, The Saga of San Demetrio (1942)

Non-fiction telling the tale of a burning tanker that was reboarded by its crew and salvaged. Later made into a film.

JENNY NICHOLSON, Kiss the Girls Goodbye: On Life in the Women's Services (1944)

Discussion of the widely-varied war work women performed.

LYNETTE ROBERTS, Collected Poems (2005)

Including the poet's wartime verse, considered to be among her best work.

VITA SACKVILLE-WEST, The Women's Land Army (1944)

"[C]ombines an account of the girls' successes with comment on some of the ugly prejudice they had to endure, and a gloomy assessment of their chances of continuing on the land after the war" (Elizabeth Maslen).

EDITH SITWELL, Street Songs (1942)

EDITH SITWELL, The Song of the Cold (1945)

EDITH SITWELL, The Shadow of Cain (1947)

Three collections containing the modernist poet's wartime verse.

AMABEL WILLIAMS-ELLIS, In and Out of Doors (1937)

Published before the war, but apparently this activity book for children was in very popular use with parents during the war, who faced the challenge of keeping children busy in bomb shelters.


RUTH ADAM, A Woman’s Place, 1910-1975 (1975)

Highly-recommended history (available from Persephone) of the changing and often conflicting roles and expectations of 20th century women.

GEORGE BEGLEY, Keep Mum!: Advertising Goes to War (1975)

NANCY CALDWELL-SOREL, The Women Who Wrote the War (1999)

Focused on the trail-blazing women journalists who covered the war.

LARA FEIGEL, The Love-Charm of Bombs (2013)

Follows five authors—Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel, and Henry Green—and their experiences during the Blitz.

ROBERT HEWISON, Under Siege: Literary Life in London 1939-1945 (1977)

JACKIE HYAMS, Bomb Girls: Britain's Secret Army: The Munitions Women of World War II (2013)

SHIRLEY JOSEPH, If Their Mothers Only Knew: An Unofficial History of Life in the Women's Land Army (1946)

(I don't know anything about it, but the title is intriguing, isn't it?)

JESSICA MANN, Out of Harm's Way: The Wartime Evacuation of Children from Britain (2006)

RAYNES MINNS, Bombers and Mash: The Domestic Front 1939-1945 (1980)

Well-illustrated short history with a focus on domestic life.

VIRGINIA NICHOLSON, Millions Like Us: Women's Lives During the Second World War (2012)

JULIE SUMMERS, Stranger in the House: Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War (2008)

JULIE SUMMERS, When the Children Came Home: Stories of Wartime Evacuees (2011)

JULIE SUMMERS, Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War (2014)

NICOLA TYRER, They Fought in the Fields: The Women's Land Army, the Story of a Forgotten Victory (1997)

JANE J. WALLER & MICHAEL VAUGHAN-REES, Women in Wartime: The Role of Women's Magazines 1939-1945 (1987)

REBECCA WEST, The Meaning of Treason (1949)

REBECCA WEST, A Train of Powder (1955)

Acclaimed novelist's powerful books on Brits who worked for Germany during the war (the former) and the Nuremberg trials (the latter).


ANNE BOSTON, Wave Me Goodbye: Stories of the Second World War (1988)

Collection of short fiction about the war by women writers.

EDWARD BRAITHWAITE, The Home Front: The Best of Good Housekeeping 1939-1945 (1987)

JONATHAN CROALL, Don't You Know There's a War On?: Voices from the Home Front (1988)

Compilation of diary entries from 35 men and women in widely-varied situations.

SIMON GARFIELD, We Are at War: The Diaries of Five Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times (2009)

Interweaving of the Mass Observation diaries of four women and one man throughout the war.

FIONA GLASS & PHILIP MARSDEN-SMEDLEY, Articles of War: The Spectator Book of World War II (1989)

Compilation of articles that first appeared in the Spectator, including the likes of Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, H. E. Bates, Harold Nicolson, Kate O'Brien, and many more.

CAROL HARRIS, Blitz Diary: Life Under Fire in World War II (2010)

Focused more narrowly on the period of the Blitz, compiles diaries and other accounts from a wide variety of people.

JENNY HARTLEY, Hearts Undefeated: Women's Writing of the Second World War (1994)

Collection of short non-fiction works about the war, all written by women and ranging from diary entries to memoirs to journalism.

YVONNE KLEIN, Beyond the Home Front: Women's Autobiographical Writing of the Two World Wars (1997)

JAQUELINE MITCHELL, Blitz Spirit (2010)

Charming collection of photos, brochure texts, speeches, articles, and other memorabilia from the war.

MAVIS NICHOLSON, What Did You Do in the War, Mummy? (1995)

Collection of then-recent interviews with women about their wartime experiences.

TOM QUINN, Jam Tomorrow: Memories of Life in Post-War Britain (2009)

Collection of interviews about the hardships of the immediate postwar years in the U.K.

CATHERINE REILLY, Chaos of the Night: Women's Poetry and Verse of the Second World War (1984)

DIANA FORBES-ROBERTSON, War Letters from Britain (1942)

A compilation of letters written in the early days of the war.

DOROTHY SHERIDAN, Wartime Women: A Mass Observation Anthology (1990)

Compilation of Mass Observation diaries by women.


GAIL BRAYBON & PENNY SUMMERFIELD, Out of the Cage: Women's Experiences in Two World Wars (1987)

ERICA BROWN, Middlebrow Literary Cultures: The Battle of the Brows, 1920-1960 (2011)

MARY CADOGAN, Women and Children First: The Fiction of the Two World Wars (1978)

CATHERINE CLAY, British Women Writers, 1914-1945: Professional Work and Friendship (2006)

JANE DOWSON, Women's Writing, 1945-1960: After the Deluge (2003)

OWEN DUDLEY EDWARDS, British Children's Fiction in the Second World War (2007)

GEOFFREY G. FIELD, Blood, Sweat, and Toil: Remaking the British Working Class, 1939-1945 (2011)

Contains a section on the mobilization of women, including discussion of the works of Inez Holden & Diana Murray Hill, among others.

GILLIAN HANSCOMBE, Writing for Their Lives: The Modernist Women 1910-1940 (1987)

JENNY HARTLEY, Millions Like Us: British Women's Fiction of the Second World War (1997)

Highly recommended discussion of various themes in women's wartime fiction, including a plethora of otherwise-forgotten titles.

MAROULA JOANNOU, The History of British Women's Writing, 1920-1945 (2010)

PAT KIRKHAM, War Culture: Social Change and Changing Experience in World War II (1995)

CLAIRE LANGHAMER, Women's Leisure in England 1920-1960 (2000)

PHYLLIS LASSNER, The Quiet Revolution: World War II and the English Domestic Novel (1990)

PHYLLIS LASSNER, British Women Writers of World War II: Battlegrounds of Their Own (1998)

PHYLLIS LASSNER, Colonial Strangers: Women Writing the End of the British Empire (2004)

GILLIAN LATHEY, The Impossible Legacy: Identity and Purpose in Autobiographical Children's Literature Set in the Third Reich and the Second World War (1999)

MARINA MACKAY, British Fiction After Modernism: The Novel at Mid-Century (2007)

ELIZABETH MASLEN, Political and Social Issues in British Women's Fiction, 1928-1968 (2001)

ELIZABETH MASLEN, "Women Writers in World War II" (2006) (published in Literature Compass)

JOSEPH MCALEER, Popular Reading and Publishing 1914-50 (1992)

ROD MENGHAM & N. H. REEVE, The Fiction of the 1940s: Stories of Survival (2001)

Includes discussion of the work of Elizabeth Bowen, Anna Kavan, Rosamond Lehmann, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and Elizabeth Taylor.

GILL PLAIN, Women's Fiction of the Second World War: Gender, Power, Resistance (1996)

JANICE ROSSEN, Women Writing Modern Fiction: A Passion for Ideas (2004)

PENNY SUMMERFIELD, Women Workers in the Second World War: Production and Patriarchy in Conflict (1984)

PENNY SUMMERFIELD, You Weren't Taught That With the Welding: Lessons in Sexuality in the Second World War (1992)

PENNY SUMMERFIELD, Reconstructing Women's Wartime Lives: Discourse and Subjectivity in Oral Histories of the Second World War (1998)

ANTHEA TRODD, Women's Writing in English: Britain 1900-1945 (1998)


  1. Oh boy. I'm going to have to set this aside to look at later, in depth. You rock, Scott.

  2. Another really interesting list - I'm much enjoying these. One other book that I don't think you've got - 'Debs at War' by Anne de Courcy (2005). An interesting look at how the lives of pre-war debutantes changed in the war.

    1. I think I might have heard of that book before but I had totally forgotten about it. Thanks so much for reminding me!

  3. "...if I live to be 173 I will probably get around to all of them!"

    Hee hee. Only assuming no more books get published from now on.

    Scott, this is an amazing list. And thanks for creating the full pdf file, too,which I've downloaded and saved.

    1. And for folks like Scott and us, who read a lot of older books, our TBR piles don't only grow from newly published works, but also from newly discovered (by us) works! I am almost afraid to read Scott's blog, and say "how could I have missed THAT all these years?" Part of the challenge! Thank you Scott.


    2. Oh, good, Susan, glad to know the PDF works properly! I'm afraid really, I will need to live to be 188 to read everything I'd like to read--I miscalculated before...

      And thank you, Jerri, for your comments and support and your many suggestions that add quite a bit to my own TBR list too!

  4. Is this a sad comment or what? I woke up in the night thinking about Scott and all the lists! My middle-of-the-night conclusion, Scott? I think you should go for a doctorate, and all these can be the basis for your thesis! BUT - I bet someone has alrady come to this conclusion!

    1. No thanks, Tom, I already tried that route before. My way, I don't have to grade papers or publish boring books, so I'm happy enough without a doctorate! :-)


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