This year should be designated the year of the war book. With the anniversary of the outbreak of WWI and next year’s anniversary of the Australian landings at Gallipoli we will see increasingly large numbers of books being published, and republished, about war.
While many of them may well cover old ground a few should come out that will be interesting and original takes on the theme. So I thought I’d share a few of my favourite war stories; ones that I enjoyed reading, not because they were about war, or generals stuffing up and leaving poor Tommies in the lurch, but because they were about the trials of the human spirit.
All Quiet on the Western Front- Erich Remarque- this novel universalises the experience of war, showing the perspective of a young German soldier.
The Regeneration Trilogy- Pat Barker- these three novels focussing on our most famous war poets Owen and Sassoon, really show the damage that war can do to the psyche and give a glimpse of what a state early treatment for ‘neurasthenia’ patients was like. It shows a world in the midst of enormous social change and is wonderfully written.
Of course one of the best ways of beginning to understand the war is through poetry. Owen’s war poems are brutally honest, painful and sad reminders of the fact that these were often very young men who died in awful circumstances.