23 March 2021
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‘Most people knew in their hearts that the lid had been taken off hell, and that what had been done in Guernica would one day be done in London, Paris and Berlin.’
Margaret Kennedy’s prophetic words, written about the pre-war mood in Europe, give the tone of this riveting 1941 wartime memoir: it is Mrs Miniver with the gloves off. Her account, taken from her war diaries, conveys the tension, frustration and bewilderment of the progression of the war, and the terror of knowing that the worst is to come, but not yet knowing what the worst will be.
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English bravery, confusion, stubbornness and dark humour (‘Nanny says that an Abbess is threatening to swallow the whole of Europe’) provide the positive, more hopeful side of Kennedy’s experiences, in which she and her children move from Surrey to Cornwall, to sit out the war amidst a quietly efficient Home Guard and the most scandalous rumours. Where Stands A Wingèd Sentry (the title comes from a 17th-century poem by Henry Vaughan) was only published in the USA, and has never been published in the UK before.
Margaret Kennedy (1896-1967) made her name as a novelist with The Ladies of Lyndon (1923) and The Constant Nymph (1924), and continued publishing fiction, screenplays and plays until the year before her death.
The Introduction will be by Faye Hammill, Professor of English at the University of Glasgow.