Shock, horror! My reading mojo had vanished, gone! I was struggling to concentrate reading a book – but thankfully Green Hands, the warm and humorous wartime classic has really saved the day for me. I found this such a comforting and engaging read as it vividly depicts first hand life as a Land Girl during World War II.
Originally published in 1943, Green Hands was written by Barbara Whitton (pseudonym for Margaret Hazel Watson) who joined the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in 1939. Written as a fictional account, it is truly authentic as she herself was a Land Girl. The short novel has recently been re-published as part of the Imperial War Museum Wartime Classic series. It was actually re-published just a few weeks ago on 3rd September 2020 and although I don’t know for sure, I think this particular date was chosen to mark the 81st anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.
Green Hands is a true ‘novel delight’ – it’s warm and funny as it documents the naivety, romantic encounters (not always welcome), friendships and camaraderie involved in being a Land Girl. The narrative is often simple, plain speaking and engaging. Barbara Whitton’s observations are also really funny at times:
Mrs Wilson keeps her false teeth in a tea caddy on the mantlepiece. She tells me that she ‘bought them secondhand by post, so that they have never been a very good fit’, and she only wears them on Sundays. She also keeps her money in the same tea caddy, and when she comes to the door to pay me, we have to wrestle with the coppers that will slip down in among the teeth.
The author does not shy away from the harsh realities of being a Land Girl either – the inhospitable weather, the hard, physical strain on the body and the stomach retching jobs. As a modern reader my respect for the land girls grew as they casually brush off the blatant sexism and teasing that they regularly experience. I do appreciate it was the social norm of the day, but personally I still found it shocking and uncomfortable. Yet Barbara Whitton brilliantly challenges this at times:
The men are in charge of the horses, and it is their job to lead the carts from the hemmel to the field where the rest of the women do the unloading. This seems to us to be a most unfair distribution of labour. We ponder bitterly on the old tradition that women are supposed to be the weaker vessels; so far on the farm we have met little to substantiate it.
At only 195 pages long, I happily whizzed through Green Hands. I have always found the role of a Land Girl fascinating and I suppose until now I have always had a bit of a romantic view of the role. The fact that this novel is a first hand account, but written with such humour that still depicts the true, harsh reality of the role was really engaging, insightful and refreshing for me.
If you’re like me and have a strong interest in wartime history, I thoroughly recommend this down-to-earth, beautiful novel.
To mark the re-publication of Green Hands, Anne Cater from Random Things Tours has been working with the Imperial War Museums on a blog tour to help publicise it. I was thrilled to be invited to this blog tour and have been the lucky book blogger to open the tour. For me this is sheer privilege, especially as it is such a lovely, engaging read – thank you!
To follow the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour of this great novel, please see below.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂