Historical Musings #55: Lest we forget

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction. As tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to devote this month’s post to historical novels which explore the impact and legacy of the First World War. I’ve always found this an interesting and moving period to read about and have come across books which cover almost every aspect of the war you can think of.

I’ve read books about wartime nurses (The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally and The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr), the horrors of life in the trenches (The Lie by Helen Dunmore) and men left suffering from shell shock (Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan), what it means to be a conscientious objector (The Absolutist by John Boyne and If You Go Away by Adele Parks), the class and social changes that came about because of the war (The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn and The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson), and even the bravery of the horses that served in the war (War Horse by Michael Morpurgo).

I’ve also discovered family sagas which are set at least partly during the war (Post of Honour by RF Delderfield and The Daughter of Hardie by Anne Melville), historical mysteries set during or just after the war (The Return of Captain John Emmett and The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton by Elizabeth Speller) and fictional accounts of real people and their wartime experiences (Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud and Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore).

A good range of books there, I think, and although I can’t say that I loved all of them, I do think they all have something to offer and provide some insights into different aspects of the war. One thing I can say for certain is that reading about the war has helped me to appreciate the courage and resilience faced by both those on the front line and those left behind at home.

Now it’s your turn. Which books set during World War I would you recommend?

11 thoughts on “Historical Musings #55: Lest we forget

  1. Deb W says:

    The Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker- Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, Ghost Road. Just fabulous. A fictional.protaginists
    Surrounded by real characters W H R Rivers, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen. An amazing study of war and relationships.

    And a lovely but little known work by New Zealand writer Stephen Daisley, Traitor. A man’s common decency to another is deemed to be traitorous.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks, Deb. I still haven’t read the Regeneration trilogy, although I’ve been meaning to for years. The Stephen Daisley book is new to me – I’ll have to investigate.

  2. piningforthewest says:

    I fairly recently enjoyed reading Home Fires Burning, the Great War diaries of Georgina Lee and also Company Parade by Storm Jameson.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    I would have liked to recommend Kate Saunders’ Five Children on the Western Front … but I regret to say I haven’t yet read it, despite having got it when it came out. I’ve been hanging fire till after I’d re-read and reviewed E Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet, and *that* was waiting till I’d actually went back to Byatt’s The Children’s Book (itself loosely based on Nesbit’s circle) which I’d stalled on… Anyway, them’s my excuses!

    • Helen says:

      I don’t think I ever read The Story of the Amulet, although I loved E Nesbit’s other two Five Children books. I haven’t read the Kate Saunders book either, but I hope you enjoy it when you eventually get round to reading it!

      • Calmgrove says:

        The Story of the Amulet is the least favourite of mine from that trio of interrelated titles, mainly for its apparent casual racism, but there are flashes of humour and it does, after all, give us final glimpses of the idiosyncratic Phoenix and the grumpy Psammead.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    A great post from which I gathered titles both from you and from the comments. I am of the view that a big war takes many, many books to bring about an understanding of all that happened. I guess that is why there are so many to choose from.

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