As green as grass

Emma Smith

After waving goodbye to the rocks, cliffs and sands of Newquay's Great Western Beach, Emma Smith and her family move to the Devonshire village of Crapstone, on the outskirts of Dartmoor. Family tragedy strikes and Emma's father's frustrations with his life as a bank clerk - and his unrecognised artistic talent - bubble to the surface in a terrible breakdown. Her mother, no less decorated in the Great War than her husband, rallies from this disaster. For a spell, life at home, the unbroken round of dances and hockey matches is jolly enough to make the possibility of war seem remote, even unlikely. But when, in 1939, the impossible becomes a reality. Emma's sister Pam immediately enlists with the women's branch of the RAF and Jim, her philosopher brother, swaps life as a conscientious objector for driving an ambulance in France. A chance bequeath sends Emma to secretarial college and then a blameless job with MI5 in Oxford, but she yearns for fresh air. A chance mention of canal boats in a newspaper - girls needed to man cargoes along Britain's waterways - sparks a whole new adventure: hard manual labour, weeks without washing and freedom. At the wars end Emma's adventurous spirit takes her all over the world including Paris where, nursing a broken heart, she sees an unknown Edith Piaf on stage and is snapped typing on the banks of the Seine by a photographer named Robert Doisneau.

As Green As Grass is a remarkable coming-of-age memoir. Endlessly engaging and capturing English life before, during and after the Second World War, it tells the story of an unusual young woman maturing against a backdrop of enormous social change.

Hard cover 320 pages.

As green as grass