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The Second World War in Contemporary British Fiction

Secret Histories

Victoria Stewart

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
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Shows how central the Second World War still is to post-war writing

Focusing on the upsurge of interest in the Second World War in recent British novels, this monograph explores the ways in which secrecy and secret work - including code-breaking, espionage and special operations - have been approached in representations of the war. It considers established writers, including Muriel Spark, Sarah Waters and Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as newer voices, such as Liz Jensen and Peter Ho Davies. The examination of the after-effects of involvement in secret work, inter-generational secrets in a domestic context, political allegiance and sexuality shows how issues of loyalty, deception and betrayal are brought into focus in these novels.

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Chapter 1: Secret Work
Chapter 2: In the Family
Chapter 3: Collaboration and Resistance
Chapter 4: Women at War.

About the Author

Victoria Stewart is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Leicester.


Stewart's study of secrets is a richly suggestive examination of the tension between memory and history, and the ongoing power of the Second World War to fascinate and disturb. This long overdue exploration of the war's afterlife opens up new territory for scholars of war writing and contemporary fiction.
- Gill Plain, Professor of English Literature and Popular Culture, University of St Andrews
Secrecy, concealment and occlusion are inescapable effects of modern war, but they seem almost constitutive of relations in the Second World War. What Victoria Stewart has now shown, powerfully and meticulously, is the extent to which they are also crucial to our understanding of how we are still joined to, and separated from, the conditions of that decisive historical episode. This is an admirably questioning and probing study of an extremely important dimension of post-war fiction.
- Rod Mengham, University of Cambridge