This revealing collection of nine WW1 stories is written by well-known authors. It explores the lives of young women in an era when they wanted equality with men and demanded the right to vote.
With the First World War came the opportunity for young women to show what they were capable of. Passionate about being part of it all, they longed to be useful in whatever way possible. By becoming volunteers, young women could contribute to the war effort by using skills they learnt, and others they’d discover along the way. Some used their natural gifts, and offered up their voices and/or acting abilities to entertain soldiers who were left with broken bodies and minds in battle zones. The most valuable contribution to the wounded and dying soldiers appears to be the emotional support through a warm, caring physical presence.
Although women risked their lives daily nursing and driving ambulances while bombs fell around them, this didn’t discourage them, for many discovered independence through service. Volunteering brought with it freedom to prove themselves as they filled the positions that fighting men had left open. Suddenly women had choices. In fact, they were encouraged to choose how they would contribute, against all protests and other odds. They were needed and this need was a lifeline.
As each story exposed the gem at its heart, I was convinced that in describing war, words like camaraderie, sacrifice for King and Country, even mateship and courage can apply equally as well to women as to men when alluding to the gallantry of war. For through the sad daily loss of young lives, the young women’s fear and terror, at times matched those of the young men’s.
These superbly symbolic stories speak of hope in a world destroyed by brutal war and death. The resilience and resourcefulness of women is applauded along with the identical actions of the men.
And later, when the war ended, when women wanted homes and families, they again had to face an even more destructive outcome; that of the lack of men to marry. They had to again summon courage and resilience, and call upon all their resources to carve a life that was challenging and useful, to see them through their generation of spinsterhood.
Deeply moving, at times heart-breaking to read, this collection reminded me that no one is an observer in wartime; that few leaders if any, have learned a lesson from the death and desolation of war, and how times like these bring out the best and the worst in us all.
Reviewed by Aurora Bale
Title: War Girls
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: August 2014 $19.99 RRP
ISBN: 9781783440603Type: Young Adult Historical Fiction