Shadow-Shapes: The Journal of a Wounded Woman, October, 1918-May, 1920

by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1920. 12mo, xii + 237 pp. $2.00.
As one browses over the season’s bookshelves and gazes on the ‘war books which the presses continue to pour forth in spite of the assumed unpopularity of such chronicles with a weary and neurotic public, it is impossible not to be amazed at the paucity of feminine contributions to the literature of the struggle. The war had hardly got into full swing before it seized upon the women of the combatant peoples just as remorselessly as it had descended upon the fighting men; yet there has been but little heard from the woman observer, the Red-Cross worker, the welfare agent, the nurse, or the industrial auxiliary. This is a great pity; and, moreover, modern history cannot be written without some such documentation.
The important point of Shadow-Shapes is its unusual revelation of this element of the drama. Thanks to an unlucky associate, who incautiously picked up a hand-grenade while on a tour to the advanced front, Miss Sergeant, dangerously wounded, found herself a helpless human being, tossed about in the eddies and whirlpools of that ebbing war she went forth to see. Beginning her tour as an onlooker, she returned as a participant, and shared with the wounded men of the forces the knowledge of pain.
A writer of genuine distinction, an observer of Gallic objectiveness and nicety. Miss Sergeant chronicles her impressions of the front, of lying wounded, of the shadow of death, of physical pain, of Paris, of Armistice times, with an admirable pen. There is a clear personality in the point of view. Miss Sergeant, a real ‘amateur’ of France, — to use the word in its rarer sense, — is particularly happy in describing the relations between the French population and the American soldiery. One wonders what will become of these young people, of these young women particularly, who ‘have discovered their heart and energy for the first time in nursing,’ and who look questioningly at a return to conventional New York life.
This book can be read as a war-book, a personal revelation, or a social document. It is all three; let the reader chose the phase which most; attracts him. Whatever it be, he will find t he book worth while. H. B. B.