Not So Quiet is a Silent Scream

This work was first published in the UK in 1930.

The first time I read Not So Quiet it was quite a shock. The portion of the text assigned for this Thursday 1/27 makes several excellent points about the hardships British VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) nurses had to endure. While the work is fiction, Smith, who’s real name was Evadne Price, does not shy away from drawing on the emotional whirlwind that wartime nurses experienced. Price, an Australian who served in the Air Ministry from 1917-1918 expresses visceral and tragic feelings about the war in her prose.

Price’s use of nicknames for the various nurses is an excellent way of making her characters accessible as well as somewhat likable, with the exception of Mrs. B—-, of course! One of the best aspects of this work is its candor. The work opens with references to the food shortages, biting cold, and chronic sleep depravation. The portions about lice and the filth the nurses must deal with are shocking but rigorously authentic.

One of the most engaging things about Not So Quiet is how Price writes with such raw emotion. She is not afraid to tap into the hatred the protagonist feels for her parents and those at home in England who have no idea about the extent of human suffering happening just across the Channel. Helen’s resentment and anger over the harsh conditions is also something the author is very comfortable divulging to the reader.

Did the nature of Not So Quiet surprise you? Where you expecting something very different? What do you think about it so far?

11 thoughts on “Not So Quiet is a Silent Scream

  1. Reading this first section for our Thursday class I actually very much enjoyed the different perspectives this novel gave (if we’re comparing Remarque and Smith). In “All too Quiet” it was from a male military member’s perspective but now we have a female nurse outlook. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the amount of emotion that included anger and frustration that was given because I would expect that from someone working in these war conditions. Personally, though I have never read this book before, I was expecting another male perspective/narrator for some reason so it was nice to see a female narrator. I also enjoy how we are now touching on how gender and the representation of women in the war because that topic really interests me!

    • I agree the female perspective is an interesting way to look at it, especially after our discussion on the masculine vs. feminine in “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Some of my favorite novels are about women in World War II, but I have never really tapped into the female role in the Great War. I am already fascinated with how the novel handles the characters maintaining their womanhood in the war, such as Tosh’s reaction to her haircut, because the violence surround war plays into the masculine stereotype but puts women into a position that goes against society’s expectations of them. I will also be interested to compare this narrative plot structure to our first novel as we go along to see if it compares to the more feminine waves we discussed.

  2. Hi Bonnie,
    (Nice to see you again after our Jane Austen class!)
    I would have to admit that the nature of Not So Quiet did surprise me. It was as if I was rendered to one of those fresh faced girls that joined the others at the end of chapter three; ignorant and happy to do my bit. Though the stark reality of the circumstances that these women faced working day and night with hardly the luxury of a good nights rest, hit me. I think what struck me the most, as you brought out, was how this work effects the psyche of our narrator. I find this largely in her bouts of fiery rage that possess her whole mind into a near vengeful hysteria even toward those that she considers her friends. Also in her mention of how she was back at home and how being out in the war has inevitably changed her perception of self for likely the rest of her days. Overall, I think this novel has a heavy impact through the steady stream of conciseness that our narrator shares with us.
    Thank you for your insightful comment Bonnie!

  3. Hi Bonnie,
    I’ve enjoyed reading “Not so Quiet,” so far. At first, I found it very similar to “All Quiet on the Western Front,” but I like reading from women’s perspectives. It’s refreshing, since so much of war literature is about the men’s experiences. I like the nicknames too. I really like Tosh as a character, I think it’s awesome that she cut her hair off. How could she not with all that lice?!

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