WWI – what are YOU reading?

Starshine by John WilcoxIn my little world of writing novels set in WWI, the month of May 1914 marks the opening chapter of Lies Told in Silence. When I first began writing this story, I did not imagine publishing it during the centenary of that dreadful war’s commencement. However, hundreds of other authors and publishers had that very plan such that readers are now faced with a plethora of fiction and non-fiction choices.

Roughly a month ago, Lucy Byatt, Features Coordinator for the Historical Novel Society, asked me to help develop an article featuring recent WWI novels, exploring their themes and other aspects for the society’s August magazine. Rubbing my hands with glee – yes, I know I’m obsessed – I agreed straight away and now have five novels to read and consider in the next six weeks.

What I want from you, dear readers, is your thoughts on reading about WWI. EVEN IF YOU HAVE NEVER BEFORE VENTURED A COMMENT, PLEASE DO SO by answering any of the following questions.

  • what fiction or non-fiction have you recently read or are you planning to read about WWI?
  • why are you interested in WWI?
  • what themes appeal to you in your WWI reading?

The Care and Management of Lies by John WilcoxMany thanks … here’s the list I’ve agreed to read for the HNS article:

  • The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
  • The Storms of War by Katie Williams
  • Starshine by John Wilcox
  • A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
  • The Russian Tapestry by Banafsheh Serov

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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15 Responses

  1. I love forgotten bits of history, and use it in my fiction. It amazes me that Americans know almost nothing about it. Even the research materials are hard to find. I bought a book decades ago called simply The First World War and it was decent. It’s too late to conduct any interviews these days too, but I knew a doughboy when I was a little kid.

  2. I’ve read all the Jacqueline Winspear books which started with WWI and continued on, through their mysteries, to show the year-after-year impact of the war in England. Same thing for all the Charles Todd books with Ian Rutledge. Thinking about it, I guess all the WWI books I have read have been about England. That first decade of the century was time of enormous change — moving from a horse-drawn to an automobile society, the telephone, electricity, just to name the big ones — and then to be confronted with that horrendous war. The interior stories of the people and all they lost –whole towns lost all their men and an entire generation of “spinsters” was created — are what interest me. Loss, bravery, denial, it’s all there.

  3. My favorite WWI books right now are the Bess Crawford mysteries by Charles Todd. I read one J. Winspear but liked these so much better! And I really enjoyed the Anne Perry WWI series some years ago.

  4. I just finished reading The Guns of August. Last year, I read a non-fiction called Tolkien and the Great War, which was amazing and personal, about Tolkien and his good friends, all in the war. I’d like to read fiction set in the period, too.

    My great-grandfathers immigrated to America from Ireland just before WWI and they fought in the American army. And call it the Downton Abbey effect, but the show did pique my interest in reading more.

    1. These sound like books I should add to my list, Michelle. And Downton Abbey has done much to bring attention to this time period, I watch it unfailingly and wish for more.

  5. 1) what fiction or non-fiction have you recently read or are you planning to read about WWI?

    I’m currently reading Kirsty Macleod’s The Last Summer:May-September 1914. It’s non-fiction popular history published in the 1970s about, well, May-Sept 1914, lol. The style is reminiscent of Juliet Nicolson, but less chatty. I’d love to read more WWI fiction and non-fiction, but most of it is being published in the UK!!

    2) why are you interested in WWI?

    The popular culture surrounding WWI, from women’s roles to the music to the resiliency of people during that time.

    3) what themes appeal to you in your WWI reading?

    Love, of course. With family and “bond of brothers,” next. I also like laying the foundation of our modern age.

    1. I’ve read Juliet Nicolson and found it very informative, Evangeline. Your thoughts on questions 2 and 3 resonate very much with mine. Thanks for responding.

  6. I just read and loved IN FALLING SNOW by Mary-Rose MacColl about the hospital at Royaumont Abbey near Paris.

  7. Don’t you hate it when you loan a book out and they don’t give it back. Well, that has happened and it was written by Dwight D Eisenhower Jr about WWI and it was fantastic. Even though it was non fiction, it read like fiction. I wish I could remember the title. but it was great.

  8. I have also read recently A Star For Mrs. Blake, and am reading now Au-revoir là-haut in French by Lemaitre, who won the Goncourt award last year with this novel on WWI

  9. Not so recent but audio book of “The Girl You Left Behind” by Jo Jo Moyes set partly in France in WWI

    Living in trenches, no man’s land, the sheer horror of it all and the stoicism of the men – that’s what makes it so interesting I think.

  10. Daughter of Mars by Thomas Keneally was really interesting.

    Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson was fascinating.

    The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy was phenomenal.

  11. How about The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman! This is a look at the build up to World War I, by an exhaustive research and gifted writer. Tuchman’s ability to develop scenes out of the dust of research fragments and draw the reader in with details that snap with life is impressive. Cheers, Jeanette Taylor, thescribes.ca. P.S. Congrats on this terrific blog. I wish there were more on various Canadian historical fiction and nonfiction topics! Kudos to you for providing so much info here.

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