RetroReview suggestions for Remembrance.
As many commentators have intimated, World War One is not an event to be ‘celebrated’. Which means that next year’s 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict is going to be tricky to get right. However, with my Historian’s hat on, I would say that we should endeavour never to forget the horrors of this particularly brutal war. If you are considering some reading materials to help you to understand the conflict better and the impact it had on the lives of contemporaries, these are my suggestions:
‘The Regeneration Trilogy’ by Pat Barker is in my opinion the definitive collection of fiction set during WWI. The first of the books won the Booker Prize in 1995 but don’t let that put you off!
Famously it deals with the relationship between an army psychologist, W.H.R Rivers and the poet Siegfried Sassoon. It chronicles the psychological impact of the war as well as its futility. It is a good book, but stick with the trilogy as the next two parts I absolutely loved.
‘The Eye in the Door’ continues with the story of Billy Prior, another damaged young man who has to return to the front after his treatment by Rivers. the next two books deal with the effects of the war on ordinary people’s lives. It also depicts women’s war work and the ‘Home Front’.
The whole trilogy is beautifully written and the psychological impact of the conflict is masterfully dealt with. To my mind these books give a far better perspective on the war than ‘Birdsong’ which I have always found to be overrated.
Other titles to try:
‘Strange Meeting’ by Susan Hill.
‘Journey’s End’ by R.C Sherriff.
For the German perspective:
‘Storm of Steel’ by Ernst Junger.
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque.
‘Lest We Forget’