This is a collection of nine stories by mostly well-known authors, of women in the First World War. All appear to be original stories, only one was written before 2014 and that has been updated. The authors are Theresa Breslin, Berlie Doherty, Matt Whyman, Mary Hooper, Rowena House, Melvin Burgess, Berlie Doherty, Anne Fine, Adela Geras and Sally Nicholls. The stories are completely different and one or two quite unusual, one of those being the story by Matt Whyman about a Turkish woman at Gallipoli, who having lost her husband and her son, returns to the home they once shared, meeting on the way a young soldier who is distraught at the loss of his friend. She is determined that they will fight the Allied soldiers who have invaded their land, and they sit in a tree ready to shoot. It is the only story about the ‘enemy’, all the rest are about British girls.
Effie’s story, written by Melvin Burgess tells of a girl, determined to show her brother Robert on his return from the front that she too can be brave, but her surprise for him goes badly wrong when it turns out he is suffering from shell shock. Anne Fine’s story takes a different subject, and is about a vicar’s daughter who can see that her father’s fine words do not comfort the bereaved. There is a story about a girl who goes out with an entertainment group, one of a girl who feels she cannot mourn properly for her dead sister’s fiancé, and the last story in the collection provides a note of real hope: the story of a woman who was one of those for whom there was not a man to marry but who led a very fulfilled life after the war nonetheless.
This is a thought provoking collection of stories and it’s quite a feat to have so many prize winning authors together, each producing such diverse stories.
It might have benefitted from a short bibliography leading readers to writers like Vera Brittain, and also Kate Adie’s and Virginia Nicholson’s books about women and the Great War.