Green Hands by Barbara Whitton #BookReview

Today it’s my turn on the blog tour with Random Things Tours for this wonderful story, which is the latest in the Imperial War Museum – Wartime Classics series and was published on 3rd September 2020.

The blurb …

It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of ‘lending a hand on the land’, as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high.

Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton’s autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War.

My review …

Green Hands is a fictionalised account of the author’s real life experience as a Land Girl in 1939 and is told from Barbara Whitton’s, or Bee’s, point of view. She tells us the stories of her time working on a farm in Scotland and then onto a dairy farm in Northumberland.

The arduous work and the physical effect on the girls is described in back breaking detail, the weather is mostly awful and their accommodation leaves a lot to be desired, especially when they are in Scotland living and working with the frugal Mr and Mr Thompson. However, everything considered, Bee’s story still comes across as a positive experience as she learns to take pride in her work and proves that women can do a ‘man’s job’.

She writes warmly of the friends she makes, evenings out and witty stories of having to fend off the amorous advances of potential suitors. Bee forms a special friendship with fellow Land Girl Pauline, who is a loveable, clumsy and comical character in contrast to Bee herself who comes across as much more self assured and mature.

It was lovely to read about a different way of life in that era, such as evenings sat listening to the radio, reading and writing letters, the food they ate (lots of tea, bread and jam), the blackout and the proper use of the english language, although it was quite jarring to read the words ‘fat’ and ‘tubby’ so often aimed at the lovely Pauline.

The majority of the book describes working outside and the descriptions of the landscape, animals and nature were absolutely beautiful;

‘The first field of hay is finished … behind him he leaves the broken spears of a vanquished army, their brave plumes broken, and their white bones bleaching in the sun. A host of dying marguerites and clover flowers load the air with the heavy scent of their mortality, and the already laden bees are completely intoxicated’

This book was simply lovely. Intelligently written and completely charming I found myself smiling along as I read all about Bee’s adventures as a Land Girl, as well as being in awe of the strength and determination of these women.

Praise for Green Hands …

“Tales from the home front are always more authentic when written from personal experience, as is the case here. Barbara Whitton evokes the highs and lows, joys and agonies of being a Land Girl in the Second World War.” — Julie Summers

“Witty, warm and hugely endearing, Barbara Whitton s Green Hands is full of engaging characters, burgeoning friendships and pure hard-graft. A lovely novel for anyone interested in wartime Britain, it leaves the reader with renewed admiration for the indefatigable work of the Women s Land Army.” — AJ Pearce

About the author …

MARGARET HAZEL WATSON (writing under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1921. She was educated at the Church High Girls School in Newcastle, and later sent to St Leonards School in St Andrews. Due to study Art in Paris, her training was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Having volunteered for the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in 1939, she worked as a Land Girl for around a year before moving to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and later joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a driver, where she remained for the duration of the war. Her novel Green Hands is a fictionalised account of her time spent as a Land Girl, detailing the back-breaking hard work and intensity of her experience with good humour and an enchanting lightness of touch. During her time with the ATS she met her husband Pat Chitty and they were married in 1941. After the war, she wrote a number of accounts of her wartime experience and retained an interest in art, literature and horticulture throughout her life. She died in 2016.

Follow the blog tour …

Thank you so much to Random Things Tours, Imperial War Museum and Angela Martin for my spot on the tour and for my gifted copy of the book.


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