In the run up to Remembrance Day I find my gaze fixed firmly on books with poppies on the cover
and so we've donned our blog poppy and I'm trawling my shelves for a varied selection of unread books on the Great War.
It's sobering reading of course, self-punishing in an odd sort of way, could be a bit like slapping yourself with a wet cod all through Lent, but mine will be just five days on here the week after next, not forty days plus nights, and I always feel it does me no harm whatsoever to just remember and think about it all.
I still find it incredibly moving to watch the Festival of Remembrance, that programme from the Albert Hall on the Saturday evening, the war widows, the nurses, the Chelsea Pensioners all getting into step as they march down the staircase aisles (they never mess it up), the poppy petals floating down during the silence and then the timeless words of Laurence Binyon,
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
It's the ninetieth anniversary of the Great War this year so I've focused my reading choices solely on WWI and thus far plenty of books have emerged that I've 'always been meaning to read' and here are the books that will hopefully feature in the days leading up to Sunday November 9th,
Women, Men and the Great War - an anthology of stories - Trudi Tate (editor)
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
The Forbidden Zone, A nurse's impressions of the First World War - Mary Borden
Women's Fiction and the Great War - Suzanne Raitt & Trudi Tate (editors)
The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme - Gavin Stamp
Looking back I think I can pinpoint exactly where the reading around this theme really began to mean something.
1996 and Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth goes down in my reading history as the single book that gave me a depth of understanding about just exactly what the war had meant for that generation above any other book I had ever read before. Looking back I see I read it early in the year and interestingly it doesn't seem to have launched me on a WWI reading fest. I think I was completely shattered by the impact of the book but I'd obviously recovered later in the year because I then read Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy and determined to add in some Remembrance Reading each year thereafter.
Looking on through successive years I see that in 1997 it was Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and Charlotte Gray in 1998. Empire of the Sun by J.G.Ballard in 1999 and then some lean years when studying, working and teenagers usurped any wartime reading inclinations I may have had.
Back on track in 2003 with William an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton, Blitzcat by Robert Westall and then I got a grip in 2004 and set up quite a prolific Remembrance/ Wartime themed year of reading for myself including
Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald,
Little Boy Lost - Marghanita Laski
The Garden of the Finzi Continis - Giorgio Bassani
Prisoners of Hope, The Silver Age of the Italian Jews 1924-1974 - H.Stuart Hughes
The Siege - Helen Dunmore
Few Eggs and No Oranges - Vere Hodgson
Chronicle of Friendship - Vera Brittain
Vera Brittain a Life - Mark Bostridge
The Village - Marghanita Laski
2005 saw more, here's a selection,
The Stonecarvers - Jane Urquhart
Stones From the River - Ursula Hegi
Ann Frank and After , Dutch Holocaust Literature in Perspective - Dick van Galen Last
Those Who Save Us - Jenna Blum
Manja - Anna Gmeyner
The Eye Among the Blind, The Child's View of the Third Reich in German Literature - Debbie Pinfold
The Artificial Silk Girl - Irmgard Keun
Ice Road - Gillian Slovo
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit - Judith Kerr
The Nazi Officer's Wife - Edith Hahn
Out of Harm's Way - Jessica Mann
A Long Long Way - Sebastian Barry
And from 2006 it all went on here so you'll have to rummage to find the books, but that's not a bad starter for ten for anyone wanting some good war-related reading. If you do decide to pick up a good Remembrance Read over the next couple of weeks please do come back and tell us about it, or perhaps leave a link in comments to your thoughts on your own blog and I'll list them here, because I'm sure you all have plenty to add to my choices.
Also please feel free to pick this blogpoppy, originally in our garden, and wear it on your own blog if you so wish.