The 1940 Club

Once again it is time to peruse our bookshelves to find books, short stories and poems first published in a certain year. This time Karen @Kaggsy’s Bookish Rambling and Simon @Stuck in a Book have given us 1940.

1940 was a leap year. In February, 4-year-old Tenzin Gyatso was proclaimed the 13th Dalai Lama and on the 10th May, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the UK.

It was also the first full year of World war Two.

In the early stages, there was still a lot of uncertainty and waiting around as everyone got war ready, however by the northern spring Hitler had begun his offensives against France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway. On the 10th June, Italy allied themselves with Germany. Philippe Pétain became Prime Minister of Vichy France on the 17th June and asked Germany for peace terms. The air Battle of Britain began in July. By the end of September Japan was allied with the Soviet Union and Italy under the Tripartite Pact. By the end of the year, the US government was making preparations for an offensive, although the majority of the country was opposed to going to war. By December the British Empire was fighting in Egypt and East Africa against the Italian army.

I give you all this, as many of the books and poems published in 1940 were influenced or impacted by these world events. But I will start my week with a run down of the books I’ve read, or hope to read that were first published in 1940.

Books/Poems I’ve Read:

As a Child I Read:

  • The Long Winter | Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Lassie Comes Home | Eric Knight
  • The Secret of Spiggy Holes #2 | Enid Blyton (I much preferred the first book in the series The Secret Island (1938). It may have had something to do with the fact that book one was MY book while book two was my sister’s. But I also preferred the idea of running away to an island whereas Spiggy Holes was more of a straight mystery/adventure story).
  • Crab with the Golden Claws Tintin | Herge.

As a Teacher I Read:

  • Caps for Sale | Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Curious George and the Firefighters | Margret & H. A. Rey

I probably read, but can’t really remember:

  • Bushranger of the Skies | Arthur Upfield (I went through a Bony phase during my uni years, so I probably read this one, but there are 38 books in the series and I’m positive I didn’t read THAT many).
  • Agatha Christie | Sad Cypress (published in March)
    • One, Two Buckle My Shoe (published in November)
    • I read a large number of AC books during my teen years, but again, not all 66 of the novels or all 15 of the short story collections. However, I am pretty certain I read both of these.

Possibilities on my TBR:

  • The Don Flows Home to the Sea | Mikhail Sholokov (English translation but I need to read part one first, The Quiet Don)
  • Mr Skeffington | Elizabeth von Arnim
  • Testament of Friendship | Vera Brittain (I suspect I won’t have time to do this one the justice I would like, so it will have to wait for another day).
  • Sapphira and the Slave | Willa Cather
  • Cheerfulness Breaks In #9 | Angela Thirkell (I am trying to read these in chronological order, so I need to read books 3-8 before I can get to this one)!
  • The English Air | D. E. Stevenson

Wishlist – the Books I’d Like to Read One Day…

  • A Stricken Field | Martha Gellhorn
  • The Man Who Loved Children | Christina Stead
  • Paris France | Gertrude Stein (memoir)
  • The Strangers in the House | Georges Simenon
  • The Dogs and the Wolves | Irène Némirovsky
  • Gypsy, Gypsy | Rumer Godden
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
  • Farewell My Lovely | Raymond Chandler
  • Nuns in Jeopady | Martin Boyd

Short Story/Essay possibilities if I suddenly run out of time & need to read something quick!

What will you be reading for the #1940club?

Have you read any of the books on my wishlist – can you recommend any of them in particular?

  • This post was written in the area we now call the Blue Mountains within the Ngurra [country] of the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples.

32 thoughts on “The 1940 Club

  1. I won’t read for the 1940 club, though they are always interesting weeks to follow. Like you I don’t remember all the Upfields and Simenons I have read. But I have read The Man Who loved Children.


    1. Have you read any Upfield’s recently? I’ve often wondered how they would hold up under modern scrutiny?

      I really must read something by Stead one day soon, but the only one on my TBR is Letty Fox and it is HUGE! I feel like I should start with something lighter to ease my way in.


      1. Bugger easing in, Letty Fox is a rampaging storm of a book, the best Stead ever wrote. Lock yourself in a room and rip into it.
        I’ve reviewed a couple (set in WA) and I listen to them from time to time. They hold up pretty well. There’s a lot of white man telling Black stories, which of course I would condemn today, but Upfield wrote sympathetically and put an Indigenous man centre stage at a time when no-one else was.


        1. Ha ha! Now I just have to find the time (& brain power) for such a big book.

          That’s the memory I have of the Upfields i,e. sympathetic/respectful and it was the positive Indigenous protagonist that attracted me in the first place. As you say, it was an unusual occurence back then.


  2. “I probably read, but can’t really remember”
    I love this category. Just looking at Bill’s list of books we ought to read, I had that very same thought about Norman Lindsay’s Cousin from Fiji. I do remember seeing an ABC series called Redheap in the 1970s when we were back in Melbourne, and I remember buying and reading four books by Lindsay at the time. (Because there were bookshops in Melbourne, o joy!)
    But the only one I can really remember is A Curate in Bohemia…


    1. When I was nannying in London in 1991, the little library around the corner from where I was staying had an impressive collection of green spine Virago’s. I probably devoured 20-25 books in the 4 months I was a member of their library, but sadly can barely remember anything about which ones I read, except it’s where I read my first Monica Dickens. And there was one book set on a Caribbean (I think) island in a garden that has haunted me, but title and author have eluded me all this time. I wish I had kept a list in my travel journal….


  3. I wish you’d pick von Arnim or D.E. Stevenson! Of your Wishlist, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is worth reading, a deep and melancholy one.

    I have read The Stone of Chastity (Margery Sharp), and just finished Pigeon Pie (Nancy Mitford).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hadn’t realized Saphira and Slave Girl was a 1940 book–it’s the only Willa Cather novel I haven’t read! Oh, well, too late to change up all the plans…

    Looking forward to what you do read.


  5. I read The Man Who Loved Children quite a few years ago, but unfortunately too long ago to be on my blog. Also The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Ditto with How Green Was My Valley. I have my review for Sad Cypress ready to post this week, and today I posted the link to Mariana as well as several other books on my blog that were published in 1940 (of course, Cheerfulness Breaks In because I am Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order). Six more to go!


    1. The Orwell was my back up in case I ran out of time to read anything else! And I am kind of hoping but not strictly, to read the EvA’s in chronologocal order. So Mr Skeffington will have to wait a little while.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve just read Sad Cypress and reviewed it and How Green was my Valley and not reviewed yet and didn’t notice they were 1940, that’s usually one of the first things I look at!


  7. I read (and have now reviewed) one of the Borges stories, but have left no time for the other, unfortunately. Meanwhile the Carson McCullers is on a wishlist which I may get to at some stage. But most of your other reads (what a comprehensive list!) are distant stars in a galaxy far, far way… 😁


  8. As you’ll know by now (up to date with reviewing, lagging behind with blog reading), I read The English Air, The Stone of Chastity and Ten Way Street. One with a wartime theme, two totally escapist. I’ve read How Green was my Valley recently and I must have read the ACs as I read all except one as a teenager!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I did that too in my teens. After I read all the AC’s in our school library (not as extensive as yours!) I moved onto the Tintin books. I then fell for the Catherine Gaskin historical romances, with some Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt’s thrown in for good measure 🙂
          Somehow I missed Georgette Heyer completely – maybe my library didn’t have them? They sound like something I would have enjoyed at the time.


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