Writing the War and After: Wicked Ladies and Wayward Women in the 1940s

  • Diana Wallace


During the war, reading was an important form of escape from tension, fear and boredom. In 1944, a Mass Observation survey of 10,000 readers found that their strongest desire was for ‘relaxation’ and that most readers described their tastes as ‘escapist’ (McAleer, 1992, 94, 95). Readers frequently turned to historical fiction because it offered escape to another time. A 24-year-old woman war worker described her tastes as follows:

I like Daphne du Maurier’s books, especially Frenchman’s Creek and also Baroness Orczy’s. Books dealing with some costume period when smugglers had the rule of the seas. I like books to take me into another world far from the realities of this. (McAleer, 1992, 96)


Sexual Desire Regency Period Royal Family Woman Writer Historical Romance 
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  1. 2.
    Unlike the films discussed by Harper, these latter three films were made in the US. Frenchman’s Creek (1944)Google Scholar
  2. Directed by Mitchell Leisen and starred Joan Fontaine; Forever Amber (1947).Google Scholar
  3. Directed by Otto Preminger and starred Linda Darrell; Gone With the Wind (1939) was directed by Victor Fleming and starred Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Leslie Howard.Google Scholar
  4. For an important discussion of the cultural impact of Gone with the Wind see Helen Taylor’s Scarlett’s Women (1989).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Recent work on Daphne du Maurier has begun to reassess her status as a writer. Alison Light’s ground-breaking chapter in Forever England (1991) importantly discusses her work in relation to romance and historical fiction, while Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik (1998) have explored its Gothic affinities.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See, for instance, the coverage included in the Reader’s Digest video, Years to Remember: Remembering the Forties (1993).Google Scholar

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© Diana Wallace 2005

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  • Diana Wallace

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