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Gang Roundup – May 2021

April is over, and I’ve survived it. Who expected it?
I’m kidding. But not completely. Between the recordings of the course about Tolkien and the AtoZ, It was one of the busiest months I can remember.
But it was also so exciting.
Especially because I did it!

I so loved researching and writing about WWI, something I’m still surprised about. What a time! And how very much we can still learn from that experience.

Voices of the First World War: Shell Shocked

Open air” wards at 4th London General Hospital at Denmark Hill. A neurological section was established there in 1915. Copyright IWM (Q 27819)
Open air” wards at 4th London General Hospital at Denmark Hill.
Copyright IWM (Q 27819)

When we think WWI, we’re likely to think trenches first of all. Then shell Shock. These are the two things that characterise that wor in our eye – and rightly so.
Shell Shock was its own hell inside the hell of the trenches, and for the longest time, it wasn’t acknowledged as such. Soldiers who suffer from it sometimes were called – and treated – like cowards. These people, who were victims, were treated as something was wrong with them and their courage. It’s so very sad.
I don’t know whether it was different at the time, but all the oral history I’ve listened to is the same: soldiers who survived never talk of those shellshocked soldiers as cowards. They all recognise that those soldiers were damaged, sometimes beyond recovery.
Here are recordings of soldiers remembering those people and those time.
Touching. Truly.

75 Interesting World War I Facts

There’s so much to know about WWI. So many little and big events and details. Here a few of them.

French Second Lieutenant Alfred Joubaire wrote in his diary about WWI just before he died that “Humanity is mad! It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre. What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible! Men are mad!”

1918 print - the removal of the dead from the trenches (Library of Congress)
1918 print – the removal of the dead from
the trenches (Library of Congress)

The Legend of What Actually Lived in the “No Man’s Land” Between World War I’s Trenches

It is probably only a legend, but all armies believed it during the Great War. Gangs of deserters banded together from all armies and lived in the caverns and the tunnels of the battlefields. They came out at night to pry on the dead and the dying.
It was such a strong-rooted legend that it popped up in many novels in the post-war years and even later, though, in some stories, these deserters became some sort of angels that helped rather than rob.

The Great War YouTube Channel

The Great War YouTube challenge is a treasure trove of information about WWI. An entire troupe of filmmakers and researchers worked together to create this remarkable series of tens and tens of videos covering any possible aspect of the war, from the most know to the absolutely obscure.
Indiana Neidell is the perfect host of this show.
I’ve been linking to their videos for a couple of years now, ever since I discovered their channel. It’s well worth a visit.

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge - In this delightful new historical mystery series, Phyllida Bright, housekeeper and amateur sleuth, discovers a body in the library—and a mystery to baffle even her famous employer...

The first in an exciting new historical mystery series set in the home of Agatha Christie!
Colleen Cambridge’s charming and inventive new historical series introduces an unforgettable heroine in Phyllida Bright, fictional housekeeper for none other than famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie. When a dead body is found during a house party at the home of Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan, it’s up to famous author’s head of household, Phyllida Bright, to investigate…

In this delightful new historical mystery series, Phyllida Bright, housekeeper and amateur sleuth, discovers a body in the library—and a mystery to baffle even her famous employer…

Tucked away among Devon’s rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses…

The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. Phyllida is both loyal to and protective of the crime writer, who is as much friend as employer. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha’s Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor…

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense–and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands–along with a distracted, anxious staff–but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered–this time, one of her housemaids–Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot’s footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans’ guests is the killer. With help from the village’s handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida’s wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end…

The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican

The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican - From London to Ireland during the 1920s, this glorious, gripping, and richly textured story takes us to the heart of the remarkable real-life story of the Guinness Girls

From London to Ireland during the 1920s, this glorious, gripping, and richly textured story takes us to the heart of the remarkable real-life story of the Guinness Girls—perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia.

Descendants of the founder of the Guinness beer empire, they were the toast of 1920s high society, darlings of the press, with not a care in the world. But Felicity knows better. Sent to live with them as a child because her mother could no longer care for her, she grows up as the sisters’ companion. Both an outsider and a part of the family, she witnesses the complex lives upstairs and downstairs, sees the compromises and sacrifices beneath the glamorous surface. Then, at a party one summer’s evening, something happens that sends shock waves through the entire household.

Inspired by a remarkable true story and fascinating real events, The Glorious Guinness Girls is an unforgettable novel about the haves and have-nots, one that will make you ask if where you find yourself is where you truly belong.

Sister of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman

Sister of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman - Inspired by real women, this powerful novel tells the story of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I

Inspired by real women, this powerful novel tells the story of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I

August 1914. While Europe enters a brutal conflict unlike any waged before, the Duncan household in Baltimore, Maryland, is the setting for a different struggle. Ruth and Elise Duncan long to escape the roles that society, and their controlling father, demand they play. Together, the sisters volunteer for the war effort—Ruth as a nurse, Elise as a driver.

Stationed at a makeshift hospital in Ypres, Belgium, Ruth soon confronts war’s harshest lesson: not everyone can be saved. Rising above the appalling conditions, she seizes an opportunity to realize her dream to practice medicine as a doctor. Elise, an accomplished mechanic, finds purpose and an unexpected kinship within the all-female Ambulance Corps. Through bombings, heartache and loss, Ruth and Elise cherish an independence rarely granted to women, unaware that their greatest challenges are still to come.

Illuminating the critical role women played in the Great War, this is a remarkable story of resilience, sacrifice and the bonds that can never be vanquished.

Darkness Beyond by Marjorie Eccles

Darkness Beyond by Marjorie Eccles - DI Herbert Reardon investigates the curious case of a man seemingly returned from the dead, in the latest 1930s-set historical mystery from Marjorie Eccles.

DI Herbert Reardon investigates the curious case of a man seemingly returned from the dead, in the latest 1930s-set historical mystery from Marjorie Eccles.

February, 1933. When their eldest brother Paul walks into their hallway, fourteen years after he was presumed dead, successful property developers Thea and Teddy Millar are beset with questions. Where has he been? Why has he never written to let them know he was alive? And most of important of all: what happened to Paul, after the end of the Great War, to make him abandon everything and everyone he ever knew?

When Paul’s body is found floating in the canal two weeks later, Detective Inspector Herbert Reardon feels sure the murder is connected to his new life in London. For who would want to kill a man who’s been thought dead for over a decade?

But Reardon knows the past can cast long shadows, and as he investigates, he finds a knot of dark secrets and old grudges that someone is determined he’ll never untangle . . .

This atmospheric historical mystery brings the interwar period of the 1930s to vivid, compelling life, and is a great choice for fans of traditional mysteries with characters who feel real and sympathetic.

Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine

Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine - 'An entertaining romp and a fascinating insight into the weird and wonderful ways of the British aristocracy' S.J. Bennett, author of The Windsor Knot

‘An entertaining romp and a fascinating insight into the weird and wonderful ways of the British aristocracy’ S.J. Bennett, author of The Windsor Knot

It’s the 1930s and a mysterious illness is spreading over Scotland. But the noble and ancient family of Inverkillen, residents of Loch Down Abbey, are much more concerned with dwindling toilet roll supplies and who will look after the children now that Nanny has regretfully (and most inconveniently) departed this life.

Then Lord Inverkillen, Earl and head of the family, is found dead in mysterious circumstances. The inspector declares it an accident but Mrs MacBain, the head housekeeper, isn’t so convinced. As no one is allowed in or out because of the illness, the residents of the house – both upstairs and downstairs – are the only suspects. With the Earl’s own family too busy doing what can only be described as nothing, she decides to do some digging – in between chores, of course – and in doing so uncovers a whole host of long-hidden secrets, lies and betrayals that will alter the dynamics of the household for ever.

A short Reflection on the AtoZ Challenge 2021


Despite starting writing my entries back in March already, with half of them ready before April started, I ended up writing the last two entries the day before the end of the challenge. It’s an absolute first for me, but that’s how busy the month was. 
I did it, but pfhiuuu!!!

I really enjoyed this year challenge. I really really enjoyed it—more than I imagined i would. 
I’ve meant to write a challenge about WWI for at least three years now, but I always felt I wasn’t ready. Mind you, I felt the same way this year, because after all, WWI is such a complex subject. But in the end, I decided to take the leap. 
Covering the 26 letters of the alphabet was incredibly easy. That’s how vast the subject is, and in truth, I feel there’s still so much to research and discover. Maybe in a future challenge, eh? 

Contrary to what I normally do, I research this subject mostly online, though I had read a few books over the last years. Not nearly as many as I’d like, which is one reason why I think there will be room for more challenges on this subject. 

And you know? I totally, totally loved it!

Yes, some topics were already familiar to me, so I knew there was room for an exploration of the human experience, but I never expected it to be so heavily laden with emotions. I became surprisingly emotional while writing a few of the entries, particularly those regarding soldiers in the trenches. Those poor people’s lives became so close to me. I found myself caring a lot for those guys. 
I think there’s a couple of reason for this: first, I kept thinking to my dear prof. Tolkien, who was in those trenches and knew first hand what it felt like. So much of that experience can be seen – or better, felt – in his work, and truly, while researching, reading memoirs, and writing the entires, passages from his stories, and especially The Lord of the Rings, kept coming back to me.
On the other hand, it somehow felt so much like us. The Covid 19 pandemic may not be a war as we usually understand it, but many experiences sure feel the same. 

I loved all the challenges I did. All of them gave me something valuable. But I feel that this one was special, closer to me than all the other, so full of food for thoughts. 

A thing that surprised me is that WWI is covered a lot more than are the 1920s. There is so much more material out there and in many languages. It’s the first time, for example, that I can research a subject in my own language. 
But then, it can be argued that – at least here in Europe – it is very very hard to separate WWI from the 1920s. 

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll write about WWI. 

Gang RoundUp - May 2021- A collection of WWI resources. New relieses of historical novels set in the 1920s and 1930s


  • Yamini MacLean
    Posted May 6, 2021 at 03:25

    Hari OM
    I was totally absorbed by your posts, JF – as mentioned earlier, it is an area of history I have read and researched significantly myself, but I so appreciated your point of view and narration of it – and the emotion came through – and that too in a language other than your native tongue – kudos my friend!!! YAM xx
    (linking my roundup post)

    • Post Author
      Posted May 6, 2021 at 08:57

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Yamini. Your support was really something during the challenge.
      I’m heading over to you rblog!

  • Anne
    Posted May 6, 2021 at 10:35

    I was told about your challenge due to my WW1 African novel interest.
    Congratulations on the themes you covered – definitely not the typical ones.
    For your next World War 1 challenge – why not step out of Europe into the other theatres of the war. There is wonderful literature about and from the war in Africa 1914-1918, some in French although most I know of in English. India (ie today’s India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) should also have some good literature – I’ve seen that which overlaps with Africa.

    • Post Author
      Posted May 6, 2021 at 16:59

      That’s an interesting direction, Anna. Thanks so much for mentioning it. I might take you on on that ;-)

      And congrats on your challenge. I enjoyed it a lot!

  • Unishta
    Posted May 6, 2021 at 13:54

    I loved your posts because I am intrigued by the world wars . And as you said, there is not much written about the first great war which was horrifying because it was a complete departure from traditional warfare and actually transformed European society.
    I also loved your book recos this post. Will definitely go for the Guiness Girls.

    • Post Author
      Posted May 6, 2021 at 17:02

      Thanks so much Unishta. WWI is truely a fascinating and yet underrepresented topic. There’s so much to discover out there.

      Happy you found the post useful. I alwasy try to point out some novels set in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. I find this time so compelling and so close to us.

  • Birgit
    Posted May 6, 2021 at 14:41

    I. Glad you are showcasing some novels here and would like to read the one taking place in Agatha Christie’s home. I really enjoyed your A To Z and I know I missed a few which I want to see and will. You wrote with clarity and gave some great insight into this horrible war. I really enjoyed the fil. Snippets and that man who is a treasure trove of information on the First World War.

    • Post Author
      Posted May 6, 2021 at 17:03

      Thanks Birgit. I loved this challenge. It was a reveletion to me too. And I’m happy I finally took the dive, because I think I can learn and discover so much about this topic.

      Do have a look at the Great War YouTube channel. It is great.

  • diedre
    Posted May 7, 2021 at 23:03

    Congratulations! The knowledge I gain from these challenges is always beyond my expectations. Your theme this year is a perfect example of how that happens ;-)

    • Post Author
      Posted May 9, 2021 at 07:13

      Thanks Diedre :-)
      And you’re right. There’s always so much to learn during the challenge.

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted May 12, 2021 at 06:39

    I really enjoyed your theme and posts. You always do such great subjects. It’s a shame WWI has become such a forgotten war, not one most people know about nearly to the extent they know about WWII or the U.S. Civil War.

    The books you showcased sound like ones I’d really enjoy.

    • Post Author
      Posted May 16, 2021 at 08:27

      It’s true. Not many people seems to be interested in WWI. This struck me most during the four centennial years. I expected a lot more interested for this event, btu even then, it’s popularity didn’t seem to grow.

      And it’s so odd, since WWI is such a pivotal movment for our history. For so many people around the world. I’ve leaned so many things since I’ve started researching it.

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