For a World War Two obsessive there’s no greater event for me than finding a wonderful new novel set in this period or a history podcast I can devour. But if I want a real feast for the senses—a real visual indulgence in WW2 nostalgia, I delve into the wonder of film and television. I’ve been obsessed with WW2, and life on the Home Front in particular, for as long as I can remember.
My fascination started with Goodnight Sweetheart, a TV series that ran throughout the 90s featuring an accidental time traveller living a double life–one as a single man dating a young pub landlady in the 1940s—and one as married man living in modern day Cricklewood. When he time travelled down a modern alleyway back into Britain in the midst of war, so did we. I was hooked.
Land Girls was perfect daytime viewing, perfect for a freelance journalist who was often at home ‘working.’ The trials and tribulations of three very different land girls was the perfect antidote to me doing any actual work.
Little did I know it would all be ‘research’ for possible novels in years to come. Therefore, time well spent.
I went through a ‘heart-breaking’ stage when I couldn’t resist the silver screen versions of books. Charlotte Gray, about a female agent dropped into France to help the resistance pulled at the heartstrings. Cate Blanchett was a fierce but fragile Charlotte, searching for her lost pilot fiancé and finding herself.
While Charlotte Gray tugged at the heartstrings, Atonement broke my heart completely. A story of a young woman at the big house and the illicit relationship she has with the gardener does not end well. The scenes at Dunkirk almost destroyed me and then that tube station scene. I cried buckets.
When I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I had returned back to my cozy roots. I wanted something encapsulating and visually stunning. I wasn’t disappointed. The true story of the German occupation of the Channel Islands is something I’ve been obsessing over ever since my early twenties when I visited Jersey and discovered the War Tunnels. Until then, I’d had no idea the war had come so close.
On my laptop sits a novel that will never see the light of day. I had no idea what I was writing but it’s fair to say it was (very bad) fan fiction. When ITV axed Home Fires on a cliffhanger, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Would those in the house when Mim had her baby survive a Spitfire hurtling its way through the front window? Would the perpetually sexy pilot Nick and the vicar’s wife get together?
I was addicted. I had to know!
Thankfully the world will never see my awful attempts to continue the story. I jumped for joy when the creator of Home Fires wrote a series of novels to sate fans.
Like many readers and writers of historical romance, the novels of the late Rosamunde Pilcher will always hold a special place in my heart. But I didn’t discover her books until after I’d watched her masterpiece Coming Home on TV. Many rave about her novel The Shell Seekers (also a film), but for me Coming Home pips it to first place. Keira Knightley and Emily Mortimer play Judith at various stages from girlhood to WAAF officer. We watch her trials and tribulations as she ingrains herself in the lives of the family at the Cornish Nancherrow estate and as she falls in love with the unsuitable Edward, while it’s humble doctor Jeremy she would be better off with all along.
I’ve always found something incredibly life-reaffirming about World War Two in Britain.
That sense of camaraderie, communities and families pulling together in a crisis, the faded glamour and the awakening of women to a future where they could play a bright part. I hope, in some small way, my debut novel The Forgotten Village explores many of these themes.