A hundred years on from the start of World War One, the devastating battle that defined a century has been commemorated in fiction in numerous ways. To mark the centenary, LSi takes a look at the best accounts of ‘the war to end all wars’.
#1. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway.
Written from the author’s own personal experience, this novel offers a first-person account of American Lieutenant Frederic Henry and his service as an ambulance driver in the Italian army. Amidst the hauntingly realistic detail of war, love blossoms between Frederic and Catherine Barkley as they strive to survive the carnage and live in peace. One of the most iconic American novels, this work is a truly heartbreaking portrayal of the impact of the war.
#2. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque.
A dark and disturbing portrayal of the mental and physical distresses of soldier life, during and after conflict. The reader follows a group of bright and enthusiastic classmates who enlist in the army, before crumbling into shells of their former selves as the brutality of war takes its toll. The most harrowing account of the effect of war on those at the very heart of it.
#3. A Very Long Engagement, Sebastien Japrisot
One of the most harrowing tales of morality and treachery during wartime. Five French soldiers, believed to have deliberately injured themselves in order to escape service, are forced into No-Man’s land and left to die by their own men. Mathilde Donnay, the fiancée of one of the deceased, decides to investigate whether her husband was really killed in battle, as she was told. This witty and tough-willed female makes the perfect protagonist to explore the world of wartime deception.
#4. War Horse, Michael Morpurgo
Although a children’s book, Morpurgo pulls on the reader’s heartstrings with a simple portrayal of enduring love between farm boy Albert and his treasured horse Joey, who are torn apart by war. Morpurgo takes a risk by making Joey the story’s narrator, but it works wonderfully. The horrors of such a brutal event are filtered through the perspective of a simple, loving animal to make this book suitable for children and adults alike.
#5. The Daughters of Mars, Thomas Keneally
A more recent, yet less well known, novel, offering a superbly unique perspective on the events of WW1. The book follows two strong willed Australian sisters, who volunteer as nurses during the war. When they end up caring for injured soldiers in Egypt, they realise the facing the brutal reality of their decision. Not only from the perspective of women, but also volunteers with no national affiliation, The Daughters of Mars is an exceptional and eye-opening novel.