When the first bombs fell on London in August 1940, the city was transformed overnight into a strange kind of battlefield. For most Londoners, the sirens, guns, planes, and bombs brought sleepless nights, fear and loss. But for a group of writers, the war became an incomparably vivid source of inspiration, the blazing streets scenes of exhilaration in which fear could transmute into love. In this powerful chronicle of literary life under the Blitz, Lara Feigel vividly conjures the lives of five prominent writers: Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and the novelist Henry Green.
Starting with a sparklingly detailed recreation of a single night of September 1940, the narrative traces the tempestuous experiences of these five figures through five years in London and Ireland, followed by postwar Vienna and Berlin.
Volunteering to drive ambulances, patrol the streets and fight fires, the protagonists all exhibited a unified spirit of a nation under siege, but as individuals their emotions were more volatile. As the sky whistled and the ground shook, nerves were tested, loyalties examined and torrid affairs undertaken. Literary historian and journalist Feigel brilliantly and beautifully interweaves the letters, diaries, journalism and fiction of her writers with official records to chart the history of a burning world, experienced through the eyes of extraordinary individuals.