I was asked to write a list of historical fiction and war narratives that I would recommend to readers, while I was part of the Bookish People collaboration. I’ve decided to share part of that list with my usual blog – the war narrative part. The following are four excellent books that I have enjoyed over the years – for differing reasons. Some are well known, others are obscure or not discussed much by the blogging community. One’s a classic, another, a pulpy action novel. I love them all.
In my opinion a war narrative can be written about current events but must be fictional, no autobiographies or memoirs, however they can be written by experienced soldiers about fictional characters.
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief is a wonderful exploration of WWII from a unique viewpoint. It produced torrents of tears that I cried in public. It is very well known and much loved, for good reason. If all the people saying how wonderful this book is scared you from reading it, pick it up right now and you can thank me later. It is so wonderfully accessible and loveable and popular so you can squee about it with other bookish people.
2. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front was the first war narrative I read, and I used it for my final year assignment in high school. Its high on my list of favourite novels and it is widely hailed by critics as ‘The Greatest War Novel of ALL TIME.’ It’s the book I always point people towards when they ask for a war novel recommendation.
3. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
If All Quiet on the Western Front was the novel that started me on the path of war narratives, Matterhorn would be the narrative I fell in love with. It is not an easy read – it is long, full of jargon and a heavy plot to digest. However, if you stick with it the rewards are astonishing as Marlantes has crafted the perfectly poignant and devastating account of the Vietnam War. It took Marlantes 30 years to write, and it has been honed to perfection. READ THIS BOOK.
4. Tenth Man Down by Chris Ryan
All of the other books on this list have been somewhat literary, and my last addition, Tenth Man Down, breaks the literary tradition in half, double taps it and throws a witty one liner. The tagline of this book is ‘Who wins? The SAS or the Navy Seals?’ but if I remember correctly, *plot twist* everybody loses. It is book four in the Geordie Sharp series, and is epically good if you have read the previous instalments, but still good as a standalone. One of Ryan’s other novels, Strike Back, has been adapted into an excellent miniseries with Richard Armitage if you want some man candy to accompany your war action-y goodness. Avoid the US version, it’s rubbish.
Well – I’m sure I’ve missed some canonical gems. Please feel free to tell me I got it all wrong, although I possibly will argue to death. If I’ve just rec’ed a book you have read – is its inclusion in my list justified, or am I completely off my head? Am I missing your favourite war novel? I probably am!