Hosted by Booking Through Thursday
It is November 11th, known here in the U.S. as Veteran’s Day, formerly Armistice Day to remember the end of WWI but expanded to honor all veterans who have fought for their country, so do you read war stories? Fictional ones? Histories?
It’s funny, but I never used to read war stories at all, but then suddenly started picking them up and enjoying them. I’ve read stories about several different wars – mostly WWII, but occasionally others too. Here are a few I’ve read:
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (WWII)
I actually didn’t finish this one as I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I know it’s been highly popular, especially with reading groups, but I found it incredibly dull. I very much doubt I’ll ever be tempted to pick it back up. Perhaps I’ll watch the film instead.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (WWII)
Although very short, this one is incredibly moving and does an awful lot with its few pages. The atrocities of life in a concentration camp are largely glossed over as the story is seen through the eyes of a small boy who doesn’t realise or understand what is happening to people on the other side of the fence. The full horror and tragedy of the situation is only brought to light by sheer accident.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (American Civil War)
I read this for the first time earlier this year and it instantly became one of my all-time favourites. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it! Although the main focus of the story is the relationships between Scarlett and her family, friends and lovers, the war colours each of these and leaves an indelible stain on her life which is changed beyond all recognition as a result of the war between north and south.
Lovely Green Eyes by Arnost Lustig (WWII)
This is the truly harrowing tale of a young Jewish woman plucked from the camps to become a prostitute servicing German officers and “saved” from death simply because she has green eyes and doesn’t look Jewish. It’s a harsh look at forced prostitution and the degradation these women suffered during the war.
The Separation by Christopher Priest (WWII)
Priest uses confusion of events and people, as well as imperfect memories, to great effect, crafting a tale that changes in its very plot as the reader hears the point of view of different characters. This is helped a great deal by the use of identical twin brothers, both with the same initials, who cause some confusion with the people with whom they interact, as well as the use of doubles for political figures in dangerous situations.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (WWII)
A fantastic graphic novel. The whole animals-as-people aspect makes it feel very Orwellian in approach, but having the story presented in cartoon pictures makes a difficult subject more accessible to the reader, in a way that we perhaps wouldn’t be if it were only words on the page, or action on a screen.
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (fictional war in 21st Century)
Although a fictional war, I thought this one worth mentioning as it shows how the sudden outbreak of war directly affects a group of children left alone in the countryside to cope without adult supervision and get by as best they can. Very moving.
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (Crusade against the Cathars in Occitania – 1209)
This is essentially a mystery that flicks between two time periods, but the historical one is set during this Crusade and the massacre at Bezieres. It is a major part of the proceedings and an essential plot point that is thrilling and adds to the mystery.
The Romans series by Simon Scarrow (42AD Roman invasion of Britain and beyond)
Starting with Under the Eagle. Although this series starts with the 42AD invasion of Britain, various other conflicts occur throughout the series, pitting the two leads (who start as an Optio and Centurion) in battle against various foes. They are meticulously researched and the action is firmly based on real historical events that are seen through the eyes of our Roman soldiers.
The Revolution series by Simon Scarrow (Napoleonic wars)
Starting with Young Bloods. I haven’t actually read this series yet, but I have the first three novels on my shelf waiting for me to pick them up. I really should do that soon!