Novels about soldiers returning from war

The illuminations Redeployment by Phil Klay –  The author is former marine captain and Iraq veteran, and the novel is about the human cost of war. It takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos

Billy Lynn’s long halftime walk by Ben Fountain – 19-year-old Billy Lynn is home from war and on a ‘Victory Tour’ to reassure the folks at home. Today, during the final hours of the tour, they arrive at Texas Stadium, guests of honour as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Chicago Bears in a nationally broadcast Thanksgiving Day game. But tomorrow they must go back to war

Regeneration by Pat Barker – Set in Craiglockhart, a hospital for officers ravaged by their experiences in trench warfare. Here the poet Siegfried Sassoon, author of an article condemning the war, came under the care of psychiatrist W.H.R Rivers whose duty, as he saw it, was to return Sassoon to all the horrors of the Front, because Sassoon was sane, healthy – and he had made a commitment. The encounter of Sassoon and Rivers is central to ‘Regeneration’, but it is the exploration of the character of Rivers himself, the agony of the other patients and the insights into their minds,  that makes this a tour-de-force. A superb novel related with chilling clarity and vivid compassion.

FobbitMy fathers’ ghost is climbing in the rain by Patricio Pron – A young writer, living abroad, returns home to his native Argentina to say goodbye to his dying father. In his parents’ house, he finds a cache of documents – articles, maps, photographs – and unwittingly begins to unearth his father’s obsession with the disappearance of a local man. Suddenly he comes face to face with the ghosts of Argentina’s dark political past and with the long-hidden memories of his family’s underground resistance against an oppressive military regime.

The yellow birdsThe yellow birds by Kevin Powers – Poet and veteran Kevin Powers has composed an unforgettable account of friendship and loss. It vividly captures the desperation and brutality of war, and its terrible after-effects. But it is also a story of love, of great courage, and of extraordinary human survival

The illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan -A new novel – Standing one evening at the window of her house by the sea, Anne Quirk sees a rabbit disappearing in the snow. Nobody remembers her now, but this elderly woman was, in her youth, a pioneer of British documentary photography. Her beloved grandson, Luke, now a captain with the Royal Western Fusiliers, is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, part of a convoy taking equipment to the electricity plant at Kajaki.

Fobbit by David Abrams – Based on the author’s own experiences serving in Iraq, ‘Fobbit’ fuses dark humour with pathos to create a brilliantly witty and profound work about life in the modern-day war zone


Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos – Toward the end of the novel, the country priest takes a motorcycle ride with M. Oliver, who’d been sent away to the army at 18. Olivier’s service has left him sceptical of life “Justice in the hands of the powerful is merely a governing system like any other. Why call it justice? Let us rather call it injustice, but of a sly effective order, based entirely on cruel knowledge of the resistance of the weak, their capacity for pain, humiliation and misery. Injustice sustained at the exact degree of necessary tension to turn the cogs of the huge machine-for-the-making-of-rich men, without bursting the boiler.”

One thought on “Novels about soldiers returning from war

  1. William Faulkner’s first novel Soldier’s Pay is another fantastic example of this kind of book. There are also some stunning stories dealing with memories of war in Tim O’ Brien’s brilliant collection The Things They Carried, a meta-fictional look back at his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam.

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