Sunday, 10 November 2013

10 must read war novels

Today is Remembrance Sunday, so I've put together a list of novels that offer insight about the horrors of warfare, human resilience, and love.

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In no particular order:-

1. Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds: written by a veteran to try and answer the question of 'what was it like over there?", this novel is a fictionalised account of a soldiers first tour of duty in Iraq and his return home. Full review here

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2. Andrea Levy, Small Island: 1948 and England is trying to recover from war. Gilbert Joseph was one of several Jamaican men who joined the RAF and served the Empire, but returning to London as a civilian he is treated very differently. Profoundly moving and unafraid to tackle huge themes of prejudice, empire, war, love and love, this novel won the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction.

3. Eric Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front: The seminal novel of the First World War, visceral and harrowing. Remarque speak with such authority, poetry and sadness you'll be in tears.

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4. Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli's Mandolin: Don't be but off by the dreadful Nicolas Cage film, the book is actually really good! Love blooms between an Italian army officer and the spirited local girl on the occupied Greek island of Cephellonia.

5. Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong: It has rather slow beginnings, but the chapters about the WW1 trenches are deftly handled. The narrative follow the life of Stephen Wraysford, before, during and after the war. The most interesting character for me is Jack Firebrace, a sapper.

6. Carsten Jenson, We, the Drowned:  Full review here. A chronicle of maritime warfare from 1848 to the Second World War. The latter section of the novel has some of the shocking and distressing descriptions of combat I have ever read.
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7. Joseph Heller, Catch 22:  Touted as one of the greatest novels of ever written, it is a comical, cynical and original look at the madness of war.

8. Pat Barker, Regeneration: The first in a trilogy, a fictional account of an army  psychiatrist attempt to heal his shell shocked patients, including the famous war poet Siegfried Sassoon.  A sympathetic and knowledgeable novel about post traumatic stress, psychiatry and love.

9. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief: Narrated by death, Liesal is fostered by the stoic and kindly Hubermanns. As WWII progresses, the Hubermanns open their home again to another person in need, Max, a Jewish boxer. Love and hate in all its numerous forms are examined in this novel.

10. Ian McEwan Atonement: Robbie is imprisoned for a crime because of the testimony of a sensitive and creative child, he is released after 3 years on the condition that he enlist in the army. Robbie's conviction and the war fracture a family. Guilt, betrayal and redemption are all key themes in this beautifully written novel.

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