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Land Girls Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The British government organized a corps of "land girls" to replace male farm workers who had been drafted as soldiers, sailors, and airmen to fight World War II. Domestic agriculture was vital to the British war effort because the island nation could no longer rely on imported foodstuffs getting through from Europe or America. Land Girls tells how the young women Prue, Ag, and Stella begin their land army assignment with high spirits but a certain amount of trepidation. The Lawrences' remote farmstead seems as alien as the moon to this trio of lively and spirited girls.

Land Girls is the story of their year of gritty toil, grueling hours, and small epiphanies on the farm. Mr. Lawrence, their host, doubts they can do the work at all; with only minimal instruction, they start out milking cows and driving tractors. When it is time to shovel out the pigsty or to poison rats, he even takes a grim satisfaction in their dismay, but they persevere. The girls, after choosing their favorite animals and tasks, take great pride in handling them as best they can.

The farm work serves as a backdrop to the drama of personal change and growth the girls undergo. These three young women probably would never have met if the war had not intervened, yet they quickly build friendships out of their common situation that will continue throughout their lives. These friendships begin as each girl comes to appreciate her comrades' unique personalities and enthusiasms, and then are nurtured when each supports the others' dreams, even when they seem feckless or impossible. The girls also blossom sexually during the year, and they finally come to a hard-won affection for Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence—at first appearance so dour and formidable—as well as for Ratty, the peculiar old farmhand.