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Green Battlefield (1943)

Novel (184 pages, 54,060 words)

first edition 1943
First edition
Paperback 1959
Paperback 1959
Uniform edition 1973
Uniform edition 1973
French translation
French translation 1946

The Book

Patrick Orleigh is shot down over Normandy in the early days of the German occupation. While he recovers from minor injuries, he is sheltered at a farmhouse by the owner, Mademoiselle Arlenne, and her two elderly retainers, Bonpart and Madame Bonpart. A German officer arrives with six soldiers who are to be billeted there. That evening Bonpart in patriotic rage shoots five of the soldiers dead. As the sixth runs away, Patrick has to flee with Arlenne before more Germans arrive.

They travel across country, getting help from other farms, encountering two other British soldiers, one of whom is severely wounded, who are killed when their hideout is attacked. They ride on a goods train to a port near Cherbourg. They are almost betrayed by a collaborator, M. Raymonde, and are befriended by the Piquerry family who have access to a fishing boat on which Patrick and Arlenne escape during a bombing raid.

There is a great deal of violence in the book. Patrick himself accounts for two Germans, and nobody seems very worried about reprisals. The love between Arlenne and Patrick is intense but never very convincing. Canning was entering the narrative territory of Nevil Shute, but he does not do it so well. However, the book remains readable and interesting for its view of the times. Canning himself was modest about it and said he did not consider it part of his canon. (Peter Linnett: "Interview with Victor Canning". Writer's Review, October 1974.)

Publishing History

The was published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1943 and sold at 4/6 in a print run of 12,500, Canning's largest intial print run so far. There was a reprint in 1944. It was Canning's only published work between 1940 and 1947. It came out as a Four Square paperback in 1959. It was also included in the Heinemann Uniform Edition in 1973, but not many can have been sold and it is nowadays very hard to find in hardback. A French translation appeared in 1946, L'amour dans la tempÍte by Jeanne Fournier-Pargoire.

The dedication is "To the memory of my daughter Virginia". She was Canning's third daughter, who was born in 1942 and died in infancy.

Another book with similar subject matter, H.E.Bates's Fair Stood the Wind for France, came out in 1944.