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Customer Review

on 26 January 2014
I'm generally unwilling to bitch about new books but Fighting on the Home Front has really got me annoyed. I've read a lot of books about women's experiences in the Great War and I'm amazed that this one ever got published. Kate Adie pays minimal attention to the food shortages and rationing imposed on the population during the war, thus ignoring the huge part played by housewives, shopkeepers and everyone who spent hours in queues, coped with shortages, substitutions, price hikes and conflicting government advice, and cooked with hay boxes, indifferent gas supplies and over-priced and generally scarce wood. Her bibliography is random (which is a polite way to put it) and patchy: it's next to impossible to tell which facts come from which books. There is no direct index entry for 'munitions' and therefore no mention of incidents such as the Silvertown explosion, although there is a chapter on munitions (assuming the general reader knows where to look as the chapter headings are a touch vague). NB I've since read on a bit and lo, the Silvertown explosion is mentioned in the text (but not the index) under its official name Brunner Mond: again, this is annoying if you don't know this. Many of the anecdotes are not attributed: the interview with Lesley Davis (p59), the talk between Queen Mary and Mary MacArthur, and the quote by E Sylvia Pankhurst (p70) have no reference in either text or bibliography, the munitions chapter has no references, and Ms Adie's assertion that before 1914 women were mostly portrayed in fashion magazines as underwear models (p8) is just plain wrong: many of the hugely popular women's magazines of the time were aimed at housewives and so were concerned with food, cooking, shopping and domestic matters. All in all, this could have been a much better book. Where Kate Adie does score is in her empathy with the victims of war (no rhyme intended) as her observations on shell shock, panic and general mental dislocation are very thoughtworthy. However I'd be inclined to recommend other books first and leave this one until the first-time reader has filled in a few gaps elsewhere as Fighting on the Home Front, although very easy to read and informative on a wide range of topics, is annoyingly vague about a lot of things. My recommendations for books about women and the Great War include
Ian Beckett: Home front 1914-1918 (National Archives, 2006)
Deirdre Beddoe: Back to home and duty (Pandora, 1989)
Gail Braybon and Penny Summerfield: Out of the cage (Pandora, 1987)
Arthur Marwick: Women at war 1914-1918. Fontana, 1977)
E Sylvia Pankhurst: Home front (Cresset, 1987, 1st published 1932)
Jacqueline Percival: Breadcrumbs and banana skins (History Press, 2010)
Anne Powell: Women in the war zone (History Press, 2009)- this book makes mincemeat of pretty well all other books concerned with WW1 nurses
Richard Van Emden and Steve Humphries: All quiet on the home front (Headline, 2001)
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