editor's choice




It’s a year ago since we reviewed the first of the Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics, a series of previously out-of-print fiction by the valiant men and women who wrote so poignantly about the Second World War from first-hand experience. It’s with great pleasure that we’ve just finished the latest book, Barbara Whitton’s extremely charming Green Hands, based on the author’s own experiences of working as a Land Girl.

Set in 1943, the story follows protagonist Bee as she and her pals work the farmlands of Britain, stepping into jobs previously fulfilled by the menfolk now away fighting for King and country. The Women’s Land Army provided a crucial role during the war, the work gruelling, the hours long, the Land Girls completing their essential tasks largely without thanks, only to have to give up their positions when the war ended and the male workforce returned home expecting to walk back into their jobs. Here, Whitton presents the realities of life as a Land Girl with authenticity, yes, but also with more than a little grace and humour.

This is a lovely book, the pace steady, measured – very different, certainly, to the first books published in this series which were accounts largely of the brutality of life on the Front, of the toll of war. While Green Hands shows the daily hardships imposed on an exhausted domestic population, dealing with a long, difficult and violent global conflict, it is predominantly a book about friendship, loyalty and endurance. Whitton’s account is, in turn, extremely funny, moving and heart-rending, her descriptions of the countryside, farm life, the people compelling. The picture she paints is of a world and society long gone, and for that Green Lands is important, allowing us a snapshot into an important part of our history.

We’re huge fans of the IWM Wartime Classics series and this is a welcome addition to it. So, read Green Hands – and then when you’ve finished, if you haven’t already done so, read the other novels that precede it. Collectively, they provide great insight into the Second World War. But more than that, they’re just damned fine books.


Green Hands | Barbara Whitton | pb | £8.99 | Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics  | September 2020|

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the publisher book tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a review copy and allowing these books to see the light of day. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please read the other fine reviews featured on this tour. Image our copyright.

Also of interest:IWM classics: From the City, From the Plough’; IWM classics: Trial by Battle; IWM classics: Eight Hours from England; ‘Only Remembered edited by Michael Morpurgo’; ‘Karl Tearney’s healing a “torn mind”‘; ‘Mary Monro’s Stranger in My Heart‘; ‘We should all be feminists’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.

This review is © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.


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