Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: War Books




This week's topic is top ten books with 'X' setting and the idea is to choose your own setting. I've not talked about war books too much yet on this blog even though they are my absolute favourite (hands down winner type thing). I find it really hard to explain what it is about novels written during a war or about a war I find so intriguing. Whilst the majority of war novels grab me, it is WW1 novels that I really cannot resist. I find WW1 so unbelievably addictive. It feels weird and slightly inappropriate to call it an addiction but that is what it can feel like. And I don't think I'm the only one. Pat Barker has written some of the most exceptional historical fiction about the First World War and I know she has described it in a similar way and Susan Hill described it as being haunted. But, someone stop me before I get way too involved...I'm trying to save the gritty enthusiasm for a separate post (yes, you should be excited).

So, my top ten books set in World War 1:


Regeneration by Pat Barker

This is the first of the triology and my favourite of the three because it is set in Craiglockhart Hospital and I have a little literary obsession with Craglockhart (I blame uni). I would highly recommend all of Pat Barker's war novels, each one is amazing and heartbreaking.

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young

Heart pulled out, sown back in again, pulled back out...and on it goes. So good. And such an interesting subject.

Not So Quiet...Stepdaughters of War by Helena Zenna Smith

Written in the 30's, this is one of my favourite female war novels. It is not strictly accurate but the emotions are there. Plus it is a very clever response to All Quiet on the Western Front.


Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
I have no words. THE FEELS. I was inconsolable for days.

The Forbidden Zone by Mary Borden

Not for the faint-hearted. This collection of stories still gets to me and I've not read them for over a year. They come right from the front line and Borden does not hold back.

Strange Meeting by Susan Hill

This had me in tears on the tube. Need I say more?!

Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn

A delightful mix of war and suffrage. All of his novels are wonderful.

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Favourite novel ever. The writing, the story, the characters, the ending...oh my days, it's just too much.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

It's a classic for good reason. Everyone should read it and if you don't cry at THAT horse bit there is something wrong with you.

Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff

This is a play rather than a novel but it just has to be listed here. When I saw this performed I was overcome with convulsive sobs. Then I had to pull myself together to interview the actors...Read it, then see it, then read it again.

I realise my description of most of these books involves some form of sobbing or heart-wrenching emotion but WW1 has that effect on me every time. But that does not make my obsession falter for even a second. I don't think I'll ever get over it.


Has anyone read any of these? Or have any to recommend? I am always on the lookout for books to quench my WW1 thirst.






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23 comments

  1. Excellent list and very pleased to see Louisa Young on it. I very nearly didn't read My Dear I Wanted to Tell You but it was wonderful on both WW1 and class. Need some tissues handy, though.

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    1. I was worried it would be a bit wishy-washy but it was so powerful. All the detail about the procedures was really interesting and quite horrifying to read. Tissues are a must!

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  2. I love books that are set during the war. You've given me some ideas of books to add to my TBR :-)

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    1. They are the best kind of books I always find. That's brilliant :)

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  3. I... have not read any of these! For shame. I'm just realizing how little I ever hear about WWI when it comes to books - the literary world is OVERRUN with books about WWII.

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    1. For shame! No, I'm kidding. WW1 has been pretty much forgotten it seems although I think it is ten times more interesting than WW2 because of all the crazy cultural changes it influenced.

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  4. I love reading books set in war times but I haven't read a whole lot set during WWI. Birdsong though? OMG. I loved that book so much!

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    1. Everytime I think of Birdsong I well up a bit. So good.

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  5. Don't hate me but I've owned the Pat Barker book for years without reading it :(
    I agree that All Quiet on the Western Front is a beautiful and heart

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    1. Ah...pressed send too soon! The rest of that sentence should be 'heart breaking book'!
      Have you read The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway?

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    2. I would definitely recommend reading it when you get a chance! Pat Barker deals with the war very well.
      I have read The Cellist of Sarajevo and loved it. It is such a wow book. I was seriously stunned after reading it. And throughout, actually.

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  6. I will have to check some of these out. Oh the ever growing wishlist! At least ours lists cross over a bit otherwise where would I be?!

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    1. My thoughts exactly with your list!

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  7. I have an obsession with WWI too although I haven't read Pat Barker's yet. I want to read Siegfried Sassoon's Sherston trilogy first. Loved My Dear.. and The Return of the Soldier because both gave a glimpse of the effect of the war on the women at home.

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    1. Yes I desperately want to read Sassoon's trilogy. I have a whole list of things yet to read. The women aspect of war is what I'm most interested in so I agree completely about My Dear and The Return..

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  8. Ah, yes, All Quiet on the Western Front. I remember really liking that book when I had to read it in high school. Great list!

    My TTT.

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    1. Thanks! it is such a great book, heart-wrenching though.

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  9. I haven't read any of these books but so many are on my TBR

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    1. I know I'm biased but I would highly recommend all of them.

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  10. I've seen a lot of WWII lists today, but this is the first WWI list. I liked looking through all the books you picked out.

    New Bloglovin follower!

    Here’s my TTT

    Stop by my giveaway if you have a moment!

    Jess @ Such A Novel Idea

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    1. I'm pleased you liked it! WWII gets so much attention, but I definitely find WW1 infinitely more interesting.

      Thank you for reading and for following!

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  11. I loved Birdsong, so moving, so memorable. I am hoping to read The Return of the Soldier next week for the readathon I'm doing, and it is on my Classics Club list. I also want to read All Quiet... it's on my to be read pile, as is Half of the Human Race. This is a fab list, Ellie!

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  12. I've read quite a few historical fiction, set around war time and it sure serves up some good stories. I think that's one of the reasons why I absolutely love reading Historical fiction :)

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