It was Remembrance Day last week, and Remembrance Sunday at the weekend, which got me thinking about my favourite novels set during one or other of the two world wars. And so here we are with a recommendsday featuring some of them.
The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker
I’ve mentioned before that I did a war literature module as part of my A Levels and read the entire reading list, because I got got so sucked into it all, and the first novel in this trilogy, regeneration, was one of those – and I went on to read the other two as well. This centres on a doctor at a hospital treating shellshocked soldiers near Edinburgh and how he tried to help the soldiers come to terms with what they have endured and his conflicted feelings about getting them fit enough to be sent back to the front.
I could write a whole post based on that A Level reading list about the First World War. but I’m going to restrain myself and move on…
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Ok, I’ve only moved on as far as stuff I first read when I was at university, but this is also really good. And it’s a modern classic that I’ve actually read and enjoyed and kept hold of. Yossarian is part of a bomber group stationed in Italy, where the number of missions you need to fly to complete your service keeps going up. The catch 22 of the title is the rule that dictates that anyone who continues to fly combat missions is insane – but as soon as he makes a formal request to be removed from duty it proves he is sane.
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
This was one of my favourite books of the year in 2018, although it didn’t get a full review at the time – just the mention in the end of year post. This is a sequel to the Five Children and It – although obviously by a different author. The five are now mostly grown up five and their younger sister has only ever heard of the Psammead in stories, until he reappears for one last adventure with the youngest two siblings that will change them. This is a middle grade novel and Kate Saunders has done a wonderful job of creating a world that feels like it is the likely successor to the Edwardian Idyll of the original books and showing the realities of the Great War to a younger audience and a new generation.
And then let’s move on to the stuff I have already recommended. The Skylark’s War like Five Children on the Western Front will break your heart. On the Second World War sid, there is The House on Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams, Dear Mrs Bird by S J Pearce (and its sequel Yours Cheerfully), Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey,Lissa Evans’ Crooked Heart and V for Victory are in World War Two Two, as To Bed With Grand Music and A House in the Country which were written during the War itself. The Maisie Dobbs series hits World War Two in book 13, but several of the earlier books in the series deal with the Great War and Maisie’s experiences in it. Equally some of my favourite books in the Amelia Peabody series are set in the Great War and some of the most exciting developments in the series happen in them – Ramses I’m looking at you!