Three for V.E. – three books that I am reading at the moment featuring the Second World War


Eve's War: The diaries of a military wife during the second world ...


Transcription: Atkinson, Kate: 9780857525888: Books


Three for V.E. 


Here are three books I am reading at the moment (yes, I read lots of books at the same time) and it occurred to me that they were all about the Second World War – and about women’s experiences of it. I hope to do a review of each eventually, but thought it might be interesting to look at them to mark this day, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe.


The first book was originally published in 1940, and has been reprinted by the wonderful Dean Street Press in 2019 so it is easy to get hold of – “Nothing to Report” by Carol Oman. Mary Morrison is a busy woman in her village in 1939 – but despite all her occupations, she begins to realise that a War is coming. Whether it is because she expects relatives and friends to descend on her, or she knows that she will be asked to contribute in various ways, she realises that everything will change.


“Eve’s War” is a collection of diaries from a “military wife”, Evelyn Shillington, beginning in 1935, and ending in war – ravaged Italy, as she followed her husband Captain Rex Shillington on various postings. Edited by the wonderful Barbara Fox, who has produced books which often feature wartime memories, she has done a lively and excellent job of bringing these diary entries to many people.


The third book is a novel set in London, from 1940 onwards, and features eighteen year old Juliet Armstrong as she discovers war is not only fighting on a battlefield. “Transcription” by Kate Atkinson is a book published in 2018, looking at a woman’s work, and what happened in the aftermath to a war which changed everything.


I could have picked other books, especially from Persephone who have over twenty books written during or about the War years. My favourite wartime author is undoubtedly Angela Thirkell, who wrote several books at a time when the outcome of the war was far from obvious, combining humour, realism and people’s reactions to great effect.


Have you any favourite books from or about the period?

8 thoughts on “Three for V.E. – three books that I am reading at the moment featuring the Second World War

  1. So many great books written about or during this period — I have a LOT on my shelves, I find this era fascinating. I just finished two nonfiction WW2 books, The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, about Churchill and the first year of the Blitz. I also read A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frankel, a memoir by a Polish Jew hiding from the Nazis. There was less about Berlin than I was expecting, it was mostly about her hiding in the South of France. Still very good.

    Some of my other favorites:

    A Bell for Adano by John Hersey — about an officer in a small Italian town (won the Pulitzer Prize)
    Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning — a trilogy about an English couple caught in Romania when war breaks out
    Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton — a woman in a dreary English boardinghouse during the war
    The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard — series of books about an extended English family in Wartime

    Wow, I could go on and on — I think I need to write a blog post about this!

  2. Like Karen, I love the Olivia Manning novels, in fact I think it’s time for a re-read. Coincidentally, I was talking with another friend only this morning about Transcription, so I will be interested in what you think about it. Atkinson’s earlier novels Life After Life and A God in Ruins also deal in part with the conflict.

  3. Thanks so much for the mention Julie! Like you I often find myself reading books set in WW2 – and in fact I received two or three such books on my birthday last week, thanks to Northern Reader’s reviews! I too will be interested to know what you think of Transcription. I adore Kate Atkinson but for some reason didn’t feel drawn into this book the way I am with all her others.

    1. I am not speeding through Transcription, but I have hopes! There are so many other WW2 books in this house to read that I am spoiled for choice, I am so pleased you enjoy Northernreader! I hope hope you had a good birthday, and enjoy your presents!

    1. Yes, they are so well chosen and the chance to read books that would be really hard and or expensive to buy. Have you seen the Persephone books about the two World Wars? They too have many that were written during the hostilities so are very first hand.

  4. I really enjoyed Marghanita Laski’s “The Village which is about the effects of the war, and I’ve read a few other just-post-war ones recently, a period I really enjoy reading about. And yes, DSP and Persephones!

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