23rd March 2021 Handheld World War 2 Classics 3
‘We walk forward together, along a long black road – powder carriers never walk alone – like a flunkey for death, sneaker-shoed Lofty waits on me now; he must open the doors; he must see that no-one bumps into me while I’m carrying this case of ‘Powder K’.
Inez Holden’s There’s No Story There was published on 23 March 2021 alongside Margaret Kennedy’s Where Stands A Wingèd Sentry.
‘Inez Holden is a great lost voice from the literature of the Second World War. These pieces of fictionalised reportage place her on the same shelf of Forties-era writing as Julian Maclaren-Ross and Henry Green.’ — D J Taylor
‘There’s No Story There is a nuanced, understated and incisive portrait of wartime industry. It’s a classic of observational writing and a vital debunking of “people’s war” mythology.’ — Gill Plain, University of St Andrews
This remarkable novel from 1944 about wartime life and work is a companion to Blitz Writing (2019), Handheld Press’s edition of Inez Holden’s novella Night Shift (1941) and her wartime diaries It Was Different At The Time (1943). This edition of There’s No Story There includes three pieces of Holden’s long-form journalism, detailing wartime life.
‘Holden paints a vivid and moving portrait of working-class life; the workers’ daily routines, their pleasures and pains, not to mention the peril they habitually face in their exceptionally dangerous work environment. She’s particularly brilliant when it comes to dialogue.’ – The Paris Review
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There’s No Story There is about the lives of conscripted workers at Statevale, an enormous rural munitions factory in the north of England during the Second World War. The workers make shells and bombs, and no chances can be taken with so much high explosive around. Trolleys are pushed slowly, workers wear rubber-soled soft shoes, and put protective cream on their faces. All cigarettes and matches are handed in before the workers can enter the danger zone, and they wear asbestos suits.
‘The fiction she produced in the early Forties, though framed in the decade’s sharp, utilitarian light, set in factories, at town hall tribunals,in troop trains lumbering through the English countryside, often transcended their origins and veered off into an imaginative space that most of the Forties realists never penetrated … the three short pieces included in There’s No Story There … are full of painstaking reportage whose concentrated detail has the effect of making them almost surreal, as if the characters had wandered off the set Holden has created for them to practise their lines in solitude.’ D J Taylor, New Statesman
‘This new edition of There’s No Story There, published with a lively introduction by Lucy Scholes, is a welcome addition to the social, labour, gender and literary history of the Second World War. It opens a window onto the drudgery, demands and danger of life in a massive munitions factory, some seven miles long, dubbed Statevale, located in the north of England. Both detail and mood were drawn from Holden’s own experience in factory work, and her characters represent the diversity of the war machine’s workforce: skilled workers, young women, men who could not enlist or have been invalided out of the army, and refugees.’ – Times Literary Supplement
‘There’s No Story There is a richly absorbing novel about conscripted workers at a huge factory in the north of England. Holden’s characters in Night Shift produced camera parts for war planes; in this book there is more at stake, for the workers at Statevale make bombs and shells. Careless talk might cost lives across the home front but in this munitions factory it is careless movements which prove fatal … A vivid composite picture takes shape, one depicting not only collective effort but also personal struggles, hopes and fears.’ – The Herald
‘Holden is challenging the idea that the working people have nothing interesting about them. On the contrary they are individuals, willing, resourceful and exploited. The title appears on the final page. A former journalist is asked why she doesn’t write about Statevale. ‘There’s no story there,’ she replies. We, who have read thirteen chapters, know otherwise. What makes this novel so successful is Inez Holden’s powers of observation, her ability to write believable dialogue and her ability to use all the senses in describing Statevale. I really enjoyed this volume.’ – Bookword
from What Cathy Read Next: ‘The men and women who worked in the real life counterparts of the Statevale munitions factory imagined in the book, were far from ‘ordinary’. It was dirty, dangerous work as the book vividly depicts … Holden’s sense of empathy is most clearly demonstrated in the character of Julian, silently transporting dangerous materials around the factory whilst all the time engaged in an internal dialogue of ‘what ifs’ until the intensity of another character’s story prompts him finally to speak.’
from Desperate Reader: ‘This book came out with Margaret Kennedy’s Where Stands A Wingèd Sentry and it is absolutely worth reading both together because both feel like they show a part of war time history that’s under represented. In Where Stands A Wingèd Sentry it’s Kennedy’s willingness to share her fears and prejudices, in There’s No Story There it’s all about the behind the scenes work.’
from Great War Fiction: ‘‘There’s no story here’ is what a journalist says, dismissing the factory as not newsworthy. Inez Holden proves her wrong in one sense, by showing the workers there as varied and lively, and making a collective effort that is extraordinary … Holden was clearly a good reporter. Her novel is first-rate social documentary.’
‘There’s No Story There is another window onto a less familiar part of the landscape of wartime memory – one that isn’t made into films or Sunday night tv drama, and if it was much written about at the time has since been allowed to languish back into obscurity. The title is an obvious clue as to why this might have happened … Nothing about this book was precisely what I expected, all of it was much more than I could have hoped for.’ – Shiny New Books
‘There’s No Story There is an excellent novel – by turns striking, poignant, funny and insightful. Very highly recommended for anyone interested in this period of British fiction.’ – JacquiWine
‘A wonderful sense of all of life being here – brought together from all walks of life … this is a novel about a way of life at an extraordinary period in our history. A time in which people had to set aside their normal lives, living away from their homes and families. Here thousands of workers come together their lives immediately altered by the rules, the shift patterns, and the communal living. There is a sense of people being outside of their normal sphere – all while belonging to a large community all working together … There’s No Story There is an extraordinary portrayal of people rarely found in fiction’ – HeavenAli
Reviews of the first edition of 1944
‘An exemplary piece of descriptive writing … in half a dozen impressionistically suggested stories there is seen the triumph of idiosyncracy over regimentation’ – The Guardian (1944)
‘These snatches of conversation in canteen or pub that she sets down so shrewdly carry cumulative force and illumination’ – Times Literary Supplement (1944)
Watch our video explaining what the book is about.
In our edition, the Introduction by Lucy Scholes explores this wartime trilogy by Holden as part of her life as a novelist and Bright Young Thing in the 1930s, and as a wartime journalist.