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By K. Miller

This book interrogates the patriotic, utopian perfect of the People’s battle via examining conflicted representations of sophistication and gender in literature and movie. Its subtitle--Fighting the People’s War--describes how British voters either united to struggle Nazi Germany and puzzled the nationalist ideology binding them jointly.

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Extra resources for British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People's War

Sample text

Far more experienced than Maria in “Sunday Afternoon,” Magdela lives with an odd assortment of relatives and acquaintances – including her husband’s mistress – in a London house no longer her own. Together, these civilians endure the destruction of the square, on which “three of the houses had been bombed away,” although “the shell of the place” in which they live remains (609). The home’s “loose plumbing” and “fittings shocked from their place” by the bombing constitute a “functional anarchy” that extends to the social dislocations of privileged women like Magdela during the Blitz.

Although she hopes from this distance to find meaning in the nightmare of the Blitz, she also recognizes that the illusion is built upon both the chaotic experience of war and the shaky foundations of strained class relations, the “anxious history” that has always underwritten the power of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Bowen’s 1969 review of Angus Calder’s The People’s War demonstrates her particular facility for navigating conflicting ideas about war and social class. ” (181–2). She notes that Calder was only three years old when the Second World War ended and that he was the “child of a distinguished intellectual family with a political bent” and thus “grew up in what would have been an ambiance of discussion, re-evaluation and diagnosis” (182).

Chapter 4 challenges the dominant critical view that bestsellers and genre fiction reproduce mainstream political rhetoric uncritically in order to ensure commercial success. Instead, the chapter suggests that Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and Graham Greene all manipulated the conventions of detective and spy fiction in order to attract a diverse reading public desperate not for escape from the Blitz but for understanding of it. Popular detective and spy fiction of the period therefore captures the imaginations of the widest possible audience by engaging with the same wartime problems of gender identity and social difference represented by Introduction: Fighting the People’s War 25 the literary fiction examined in Chapters 1, 2, and 3.

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