10 books like Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Elsie and Mairi Go to War. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain,

Book cover of Testament of Youth

I first began reading this just as background research, in an attempt to get the character ‘voice’ right for my own WW1 series, but, as with many other books I was pulled in against my expectations. Vera’s decision to become a VAD nurse, and her determination to do the best possible job under unthinkable circumstances, made me want to learn everything about this era and the people who lived it. It threw a cold light onto what had, until then, been a sort of fuzzy half-knowledge, and it’s an example of the best in humanity, wrapped in what could easily be an extravagant fiction; knowing it was an autobiographical account made it so much poignant. It shows how powerful the drive to help others can be, despite the hardships endured. 

Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Testament of Youth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An autobiographical account of a young nurse's involvement in World War I.


Women as Army Surgeons

By Flora Murray,

Book cover of Women as Army Surgeons: Being The History Of The Women's Hospital Corps 1914-1919

Murray’s book was the inspiration, guide and companion for my own. Flora Murray and her life-long partner Louisa Garrett Anderson were both doctors and suffragettes. Murray was honorary doctor to the suffragette movement and Anderson went to prison for four weeks for smashing a window. As women doctors they were confined to treating only women and children. They seized the war as a chance not only to do their bit but to prove women doctors were equal to their male counterparts. They ran two hospitals in France before setting up Endell Street in 1915. Murray wrote her book, first published in 1920, as testament to the achievements of all the women involved. Her account is bracing – in the manner of the wartime “Blighty spirit” – but packed with fascinating detail and heroic acts.

Women as Army Surgeons

By Flora Murray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women as Army Surgeons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Flora Murray's book is a record of the Women's Hospital Corps in France and the Endell Street Military Hospital, London. Despite a lack of training in trauma and orthopaedics, and with no previous experience in military medicine, she met the challenge of treating often horrific wartime casualties and returning battle-injured men to society. She, along with her partner Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson, redefined gender roles in military medicine.


Female Tommies

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Book cover of Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

Shipton’s book is a brilliantly researched account of the thousands of incredible women who refused to sit at home knitting socks when war began. Using diaries, letters and memoirs, she tells the story of the women who put on uniforms of various hues to drive ambulances, carry stretchers, nurse the wounded and even to bear arms close to the frontlines of World War One. They included the wonderful Flora Sandes who went to Serbia to nurse casualties and ended up joining the Serbian Army. It’s a testimony to women’s bravery, daring and refusal to take no for an answer.

Female Tommies

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Female Tommies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The First World War saw one of the biggest ever changes in the demographics of warfare, as thousands of women donned uniforms and took an active part in conflict for the first time in history. Female Tommies looks at the military role of women worldwide during the Great War and reveals the extraordinary women who served on the frontline.

Through their diaries, letters and memoirs, meet the women who defied convention and followed their convictions to defend the less fortunate and fight for their country. Follow British Flora Sandes as she joins the Serbian Army and takes up a place…


Between the Lines

By Audrey Fawcett Cahill,

Book cover of Between the Lines: Diaries and Letters from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit

History is just “one damned thing after another” is a common phrase. For me this is the book which has led me to my next project. Cahill traces the story of the women who went to Russia in 1916 with the voluntary outfit the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Set up by a Scottish surgeon, Elsie Inglis, the SWH became the biggest women’s medical organisation serving abroad in the war. The SWH women ran hospitals in France, Serbia and Russia. Here Cahill tells the story of their astonishing adventures in Russia – driving ambulances close to the firing line, retreating with the Serbian and Russian armies, surviving the cold, food shortages and the Russian Revolution – through the women’s own words. It’s staggering stuff – and great material for my next book about one of those incredible women pioneers.

Between the Lines

By Audrey Fawcett Cahill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between the Lines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipped from UK, please allow 10 to 21 business days for arrival. First Published by PENTLAND, EDINBURGH, 1999 BETWEEN THE LINES: Letters and Diaries from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit. Arranged and edited by Audrey Fawcett Cahill. 372 p., ill., maps A very good, near fine soft-cover copy.


Gabrielle Petit

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Book cover of Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War

British people have often heard of Edith Cavell, who has been commemorated in Britain as a national heroine of the war after she was executed by the Germans in 1915 for her role in running an escape network in Belgium for Allied Soldiers. But Cavell was only one individual amongst hundreds who resisted the authorities in occupied France and Belgium. Like Cavell, young Belgian woman Gabrielle Petit was remembered as a national heroine after her execution during the war. De Schaepdrijver’s book vividly brings her story to life, explaining how she was became involved in espionage, as well as showing how a cult of remembrance grew around her in the decades following the 1918 armistice.

Gabrielle Petit

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gabrielle Petit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In central Brussels stands a statue of a young woman. Built in 1923, it is the first monument to a working-class woman in European history. Her name was Gabrielle Petit. History has forgotten Petit, an ambitious and patriotic Belgian, executed by firing squad in 1916 for her role as an intelligence agent for the British Army. After the First World War she was celebrated as an example of stern endeavour, but a hundred years later her memory has faded.

In the first part of this historical biography Sophie De Schaepdrijver uses Petit's life to explore gender, class and heroism in…


I Was a Spy!

By Marthe McKenna,

Book cover of I Was a Spy!

Talk about a real-life action heroine! I grew up loving stories of intrigue and suspense, and Marthe McKenna’s 1932 memoir is like reading a thriller! As a young woman in German-occupied Belgium during WWI, she worked for the Resistance right under the enemy’s nose. I felt her fear as she witnessed brutality or took outlandish risks, and her exploits were incredibly brave for a woman of her time. I was in awe to read the book’s foreword by Sir Winston Churchill himself, lauding Marthe’s extraordinary courage and ingenuity during her ordeal. She taught me that we can all do more than we ever imagined if it means our survival, and her story inspired the high stakes I created in my novel.

I Was a Spy!

By Marthe McKenna,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I Was a Spy! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The Greatest War Story of All – Takes rank with All Quiet on the Western Front. She fulfilled in every respect the conditions which made the terrible profession of a spy dignified and honourable. Dwelling behind the German line within sound of cannon, she continually obtained and sent information of the highest importance to the British Intelligence Authorities. Her tale is a thrilling one … the main description of her life and intrigues and adventures is undoubtedly authentic. I was unable to stop reading it until 4 a.m.”

Winston Churchill 1932

With her medical studies cut short by the 1914…


Singled Out

By Virginia Nicholson,

Book cover of Singled Out: How Two Million British Women Survived Without Men After the First World War

The First World War stripped Britain of hundreds of thousands of its young men. In an age where women’s lives were funnelled towards the certainty of marriage, this left a big shortfall on the balance sheet of matrimony, creating what became known as the Surplus Women. Now they had to find their own sources of income and become responsible for their own future happiness.

Nicholson curates many memoirs and diaries of such women from all tiers of society. Adding material from interviews she conducted herself, she tells the stories of lost potential and loneliness, together with inspirational tales of liberation, fresh-forged independence, and the unprecedented freedom that self-reliance brought for those who rose to the challenge.

Singled Out

By Virginia Nicholson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Singled Out as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The First World War deprived Britain of three-quarters of a million soldiers, with as many more incapacitated. In 1919 a generation of women who unquestioningly believed marriage to be their birthright discovered that there were, quite simply, not enough men to go round. The press ran alarming stories about the `Problem of the Surplus Women - Two Million who can never become Wives . . .'. But behind the headlines were thousands of brave, emancipated individuals forced by a tragedy of historic proportions to rethink their entire futures.

Tracing their fates, Virginia Nicholson shows how the single woman of the…


The Facemaker

By Lindsey Fitzharris,

Book cover of The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

From the moment the first machine gun rang out over the Western Front, one thing was clear: mankind’s military technology had wildly surpassed its medical capabilities. Bodies were battered, gouged, hacked, and gassed. But we often forget to ask the most important questions: who put the soldiers back together? And how? I’m a medical and scientific historian, so these are often the queries that haunt me most. With powerful prose, Lindsey (a dear friend of mine and an incredible author) recounts the early days of plastic surgery, of men who needed their faces rebuilt, and the man who made it happen. This book reads like an adventure and an emotional roller-coaster in one, packed with gripping and unusual facts about a uniquely modern surgical specialty.

The Facemaker

By Lindsey Fitzharris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Facemaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller
Finalist for the 2022 Kirkus Prize

"Enthralling. Harrowing. Heartbreaking. And utterly redemptive. Lindsey Fitzharris hit this one out of the park." —Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile

Lindsey Fitzharris, the award-winning author of The Butchering Art, presents the compelling, true story of a visionary surgeon who rebuilt the faces of the First World War’s injured heroes, and in the process ushered in the modern era of plastic surgery.

From the moment the first machine gun rang out over the Western Front, one thing was clear: humankind’s military technology had wildly surpassed its…


Finding Thoroton

By Philip Vickers,

Book cover of Finding Thoroton: The Royal Marine Who Ran British Naval Intelligence in the Western Mediterranean in World War One

British Intelligence during the First World War is most known for the work of Room 40, which led to the more famous Bletchley Park in the next World War; however, another crucial part of the operation was all the agents in the field that reported to the same man who spearheaded the codebreaking. Those in the Mediterranean were under the command of Charles “the Bold” Thoroton, and this book, written by his granddaughter’s husband, is an enthralling peek into the life of an agent on the ground. From fascinating stories of how unnamed agents found the information the Admiralty was desperate for to being targeted by counter-agent femme fatales, Finding Thoroton reveals information not to be found in any other book, compiled through careful research. A fascinating read.

Finding Thoroton

By Philip Vickers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding Thoroton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Thirty-Nine Steps

By John Buchan,

Book cover of The Thirty-Nine Steps

I could never forget the name of Richard Hannay from this book as it’s chiselled into my heart. The first review I had on the first novel I wrote came from a Scottish woman, who was a school headmistress, comparing my protagonist to John Buchan’s (a Scottish Writer) Richard Hannay in his The Thirty-Nine Steps. That review caught the eye of a film producer and the rest, as they say, is history. I had a great time doing about twenty-five or more Waterstone’s Book shop signings and having a six-year paid option for the book to become a thirty-million-dollar film. 

The Thirty-Nine Steps

By John Buchan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Thirty-Nine Steps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Hannay has just returned to England after years in South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his life in London. But then a murder is committed in his flat, just days after a chance encounter with an American who had told him about an assassination plot which could have dire international consequences. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland where he will need all his courage and ingenuity to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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