World War II was a momentous event, taking place at a time when history was being made every day. However, behind the headlines, ordinary people were just getting on with their lives, and carrying on as normal - or at least as near to normal as was possible under the circumstances. Several English novelists have mined the fertile ground of English experiences on the home front during World War II, producing moving family sagas which tell the story from the ground level. These are some of the best writers of World War II family sagas.
Mary Jane Staples was actually a man called Reginald, and his/her first books introduced the Adams family from London's East End during World War I - the Great War, as it came to be called. However, as far as Staples was concerned, it was just a curtain raiser for the main event. The saga follows the Adams family through the London Blitz, and all the devastation, departures, destruction and reunions that went with it.
Despite the serious subject matter, Staples' sense of humour is never far from the surface. It's not great literature by any means, but they are great stories, beautifully and movingly told.
Maureen Lee has often been asked why she deals with World War II in almost all her books, and her answer is, 'Because it's impossible not to.' Unlike Mary Jane Staples, whose tales are built around one family, Lee's books deal with different families, and the impact the war had on them - not just between 1939 and 1945, but through the rest of their lives. Her books are set mainly in Liverpool, although her heroines tend to spread their wings across the world.
Lee's books tend to take in the dark side more than Staples' cheery East End sagas, but both authors are hot on historical detail and atmosphere. They bring wartime Britain to graphic life, and allow the reader to become part of that world for a while.
According to her official website, Lilian Harry's earliest recollection is being taken from her bed to the Anderson shelter in the garden, during the wartime raids on Portsmouth. This personal experience permeates her wartime sagas, which deal mainly with the families living in and around the April Grove area of Portsmouth - a poor but respectable working class area. The Budd family, who are central to many of the stories, are loosely based on Harry's own family, and her personal experiences and local knowledge give the sagas a unique resonance.
Some of Lilian Harry's wartime sagas also take in Plymouth - another city that was badly damaged during the war, along with its residents.
Mary Jane Staples, Maureen Lee and Lilian Harry are some of the best writers of World War II family sagas, in their different ways. They use their personal experiences, attention to historical detail and individual ways with words to bring a troubled interlude in Britain's history to life for modern readers. Above all, they recreate the stories of ordinary families living through extraordinary times.