Book talk: The written reminders of the world's wars

Book talk: The written reminders of the world's wars

As November comes round every year, we reach a time of reflection.

Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day both are times of introspection — Thanksgiving, a time to appreciate the things we have, and Remembrance Day, a time to consider the past.

The first half of the 20th century saw two world wars take the lives of more than 100 million civilians and military personnel around the globe. The experience inspired a trove of great literature and poetry produced by the people who lived and breathed through those horrific times.

Poems like "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae and "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke give a snapshot of life in First World War. There are also many intriguing non-fiction titles about the two wars — books published right up to present day that try to shine a light on different stories, both military and civilian, that play out during the time period.

A recent release that springs to mind is "The Splendid and The Vile," a compendium of diary entries, archival evidence and first-hand accounts surrounding one of World War II's central figures, Winston Churchill. The book is a fascinating insight into Churchill’s day-to-day activities during the most trying times for the country he was leading.

The world wars also influenced some spectacular fiction novels as well. Titles like "The Last Year of the War" by Susan Meissner, "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah, "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak and "The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas" by John Boyne all tell stories from different perspectives all centering around the times, trials and troubles experienced across the globe.

The stories and events they describe resonate across times and rightly serve as reminders of the depravity of war.

"The Nightingale" tells the story of two sisters in German-occupied France, separated by experiences, ideals and passions. They both embark on journeys for survival on different paths that are destined to intertwine. It is a fantastic novel that shows the resilience of the human spirit in dark times. It is a chilling reminder that those who suffer during wars are not always wearing uniforms.

"The Book Thief" is told from the point of view of a young German girl during the latter part of World War II. This book, as well as "The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas," allow the reader to get an understanding of how incomprehensible and frightening armed conflict is to children, the innocent bystanders of all wars.

All of these books are available at Next Chapter in Camana Bay.

This article was originally featured in the November 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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