Debs at War: How Wartime Changed Their Lives, 1939–1945 by Anne de Courcy - review by Diana Athill

Diana Athill

Scared of Nothing but Their Fathers

Debs at War: How Wartime Changed Their Lives, 1939–1945


Weidenfeld & Nicolson xxpp £18.99

It was a good idea of Anne de Courcy's to round up forty-seven well-bred women who were debutantes (in the social sense) when war broke out in 1939, and get them to remember their wartime experiences. She captures within one book a vivid impression of those years, a short history of the women's services, a closely focused view of an exotic corner of social history, and a lot of human interest. It all makes riveting reading.

The grander you were, the grimmer your childhood, or so it seems from the material quoted. Of the ritual after-tea visit to your parents: ‘They didn't play with us. We sat in the gun room, seven of us on the sofa, then shot out of the room like scalded cats.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter