Review Blog

Jul 02 2008

My Story: Road to War by Valerie Wilding

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Scholastic, 2008.
Wealthy, upper class Daphne has been brought up to believe her role in life is to learn how to run a home. However, after the First World War breaks out, her father is killed in action and her brother declared missing. Daphne is determined to do her bit for the war effort, but bored with knitting socks and rolling bandages she joins the FANYs – the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and finds herself driving ambulances at the front line.

Written as a war diary we are offered a dramatic contrast between Daphne's privileged home existence and her dangerous exploits at the front. This is a valuable record of the changing role of women in an unstable world. Small details such as how daring it was for a girl to cut her hair (long hair had a habit of getting oily when leaning under ambulance bonnets) are sensitively portrayed.

However, the characterisation remains rather flat. Daphne is a pleasant, jolly girl, but her experiences don't tug at the heart strings and although much of her diary is written from the front line you don't feel as though you are there with her. One saving grace is that this book does not offer a stereotyped ending. I had a feeling that Daphne's brother would be found alive – but at the end of the book he is still missing, presumed dead, a poignant reminder of the millions who lost their lives.

This book does not have the same impact as Private Peaceful (Michael Morpurgo), but it does offer an insight into the changing role of women and would be a useful addition to a topic box. The historical notes and photographs contribute greatly to the overall picture and I was fascinated to learn that the FANYs still exist today and worked with the London police in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in 2005.
Claire Larson

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