World War 1 novels

All quiet on the Western Front

World War 1 started a hundred years ago today 4th August 1914

The must-see exhibition “Aspects And Images Of Leeds During  The Great War” is on in the Central Library from 28th Jul – 28th September 2014, well worth a visit. Here’s our list of novels featuring World War 1.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

This is the story of Stephen who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experience of the war itself with its descriptions of mud and homesickness.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Remarque, who had experienced war, traces the experiences of Paul Baumer, who is encouraged to sign up by a teacher. A gruelling indictment of the pointlessness of war, it depicts how little any soldier’s death meant among so many.

Regeneration by Pat Barker

The first of this acclaimed trilogy, it explores the effect of war on soldiers. Set in Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, where doctors experimented with new ways of helping the shellshocked,  real characters, notably poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, are featured. Sequels  are The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road, all moving and informative. To quote a critic –  ‘a blend of the poetic and the practical’.

The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek

Opening with news of the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, Hasek’s unfinished novel – it was completed after his death – is a satire of war, which takes no prisoners. The soldier Schweik acts throughout like a fool, showing up the hypocrisies and idiocies and futilities of war. Hasek, who fought in the Austro-Hungarian Army, knew of what he wrote.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway helped as an ambulance driver in Italy for the Red Cross, which is exactly what his American hero Frederic Henry does in this maudlin novel of conflict, love, drink, and death which does not get very good ratings from Leeds readers.

Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford

Among the best wartime novels, set between England and the western front. This four-part work features one of the most inscrutable but attractive fictional characters, the buttoned-up gentleman and officer, Christopher Tiejens, a man so unhappily married, he almost does not care if he dies.

Johnny Got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Joe, a young American soldier in the Great War, lies helpless in hospital, so horrifically injured he cannot communicate with the outside world. Trapped in the hell of his body, he wanders through his memories, struggling to retain his sanity

Mr Standfast by John Buchan

A Richard Hannay novel, this is a gung-ho adventure, in which Hannay, a brigadier-general, must leave the western front in order to uncover a German agent at work in England. To do so, he must impersonate a pacifist. Not as easy as it sounds.

The Enormous Room by e e cummings

ee cummings was a prisoner of war in France, where he had been serving as an ambulance driver. This is a “wry account of an intellectual coping with an absurd situation, in which he and 30 other prisoners share a room”.

War horse by Michael Morpurgo

In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France.

5 thoughts on “World War 1 novels

  1. Very strange to see so many poor reviews for A Farewell To Arms. Not quite as good as For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is probably Hemingway’s best novel, but it’s still a stonewall classic. Absolutely heartbreaking too.

  2. That’s a great list with some absolute classics on it. The Dalto Trumbo book isn’t as well known as some of the others, but it’s an absolutely amazing read – a powerful, harrowing narrative that’s also breathtaking from a technical point of view. Highly recommended.

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