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  • Writer's pictureBridget Walsh

Research for my next Irish Historical novel

Not so Quiet. . .

I have just finished reading this novel about women ambulance drivers in the First World War. It was written by Helen Zenna Smith from the war diaries of Winifred Young, a volunteer ambulance driver on the Western Front.

Originally, I wanted to base my main character on an ambulance driver, but after reading the novel, I realised that there was no room for my character to take action or to do things for herself. The job was very controlled and every minute of day and night were taken up by ferrying wonded and dying soldiers to hospital then cleaning ambulances ready for the next run.


I also found it odd that the volunteers were all middle and upper class young women who had no knowledge of manual work before they arrived in France. In the Afterword of this novel, written by Jane Marcus, 'a pioneering feminist literary scholar,' Marcus suggested that this class of women were chosen "because they will obey a code of honor and remain silent and stiff upper-lipped about the horror." (p282-283)

They saw the very worst injuries and deaths caused by trench warfare and witnessed the terrible suffering of young soldiers.

My Protagonist

After reading this novel, I have decided that my character, an Irish-American woman, will have to find her own way to witness the war. I want her to be free to roam and discover a variety of aspects of the war in her travels. I have some ideas how she can do this and will develop them as she takes to the road. I also want to reflect on the particular experience of Irish volunteers as my grandfather fought in the First World War with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Timeframe for this next novel.

I enjoy writing Irish historical fiction set in the 19th century, and have now moved to the 20th century. This setting in 1914 is new to me, so I have been researching every aspect of the worlds of New York, Ireland and France/Belgium in the first years of the War.

I had originally planned to write and complete this novel before the end of the year, but I see now that I will need to allow further time for my character to achieve her goals. Hopefully, by next June 2024, all being well, it will be ready to self-publish.


'Not so Quiet' first published in Great Britain in 1930, then 1989 by Feminist Press at The City University of New York. New York.

The author, Helen Zenna Smith, is the pseudonym of Evadne Price whose life story is worthy of its own novel,

Jane Marcus.

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