Not So Quiet... is the fictional, but autobiographical account of the author, Helen Zenner Smith's experiences during the First World War. It is one of the most uncompromising, unflinching accounts for the First World War I have ever read. Perhaps made all the more startling by the fact that it is a woman's experience of life at the front.
'Smithy' is a volunteer ambulance driver, living and working in close quarters with other women volunteers, she ferries wounded men from ambulance trains and casualty clearing stations to various hospitals. There is no false nobility in her account; the men are shattered and in pieces, both literally and metaphorically and 'Smithy' herself is brutally affected by horror and by her endless, exhausting daily routines under the iron hand of 'Mrs Bitch' the commandant who regularly doles out unnecessary punishment to the exhausted, traumatised women.
This novel affected me greatly, partly I think because it surprised me so much. It is far removed from the traditional, noble 'daughters of England' representations of women in war and much closer to the reality of war writing that has been associated with the likes of Robert Graves and Seigfried Sassoon. I don't understand why this work is not read alongside accepted 'important' war writing, because it deserves its place up there and deserves a much wider readership than I suspect it currently gets.