General Question

Earthgirl's avatar

Any recommendations for fictional accounts of WWl or WWll?

Asked by Earthgirl (11214points) February 5th, 2011

I have read “All Quiet on the Western Front ” and “Slaughterhouse 5”. I think that literature can get to the heart of personal experience by making an historical event personal and help us to understand it better than busloads of books about battle strategies and so on. I’m not discounting the value and need for those also, just looking for powerful literary accounts.

The best novel about WWl I have ever read was “Birdsong:A Novel of Love and War” by Sebastian Faulks. It was an enormous bestseller in the UK but is not as well known here in the United States. It takes you right into the trenches and you see the war through the eyes of a soldier. That novel made me appreciate what those men went through in a way I never had before. That is the sort of book I am looking for.

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35 Answers

janbb's avatar

Atonement by Ian McEwan for World War I has a great description of a soldier’s experience. Another great one is Regeneration by Pat Barker about shell-shock and trauma care. Night by Elie Wiesel is the classic go-to book for life in the concentration camps durin World War II. You might also look at the poetry of Wilfrid Owen and Sigfried Sassoon.

JilltheTooth's avatar

A slightly different take on the WWII experience, from the perspective of people that were not soldiers is Marge Piercy’s Gone to Soldiers. It covers such things as resistance fighters, American female support personnel (pilots and the like), merchant marines in supply convoys crossing the Atlantic under attack, etc. It’s well-written and enhances the idea that the War affected so many more than the soldiers.

blueiiznh's avatar

War and Rememberance – Herman Wouk
The Winds of War – Herman Wouk
Miracle at St. Anna – James McBride
City of Thieves – David Benioff
From Here to Eternity – Fred Zimmermann
The Invisible Bridge – Julie Orringer
The Postmistress – Sarah Blake

filmfann's avatar

Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb. Kubrick made a pretty good movie from it.
A non-fictional account that you might like is Band Of Brothers.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but Private Peaceful is a fictional account of two boys who fight in WWI. Although it is relatively short (208 pages), it is an incredibly emotional story.

jaytkay's avatar

The Good Soldier Švejk is the Catch 22 of WW I.

Catch 22 is the The Good Soldier Švejk of WW II.

marinelife's avatar

A Soldier’s great War Mark Helprin
Three Day Road Joseph Boyden
A Very Long Engagement Sebastian Japrissot

The Naked and the Dead Norman Mailer
While Still We Live Helen MacInnes
The Winds of War and War and Remembrance Herman Wouk
The Thin Red Line James Jones

seazen's avatar

Saving Private Ryan – the book and movie.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemingway

Austinlad's avatar

Paths of Glory, an extraordinary 1957 anti-war film directed by Stanley Kubrick and produced by/starring Kirk Douglas at his best. Must viewing!

Earthgirl's avatar

austinlad Paths of Glory is one of the greatest films I have ever seen. Thanks for bringing it up:)

gailcalled's avatar

The 11 WWII espionage/history novels of Alan Furst. Intrigue, love, betrayal, redemption and skullduggery in France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, N. Africa, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, Serbia, Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania. Poland and the USSR.

Start with The Night Soldiers, written in 1988.
Eric Ambler
Graham Greene

Regeneration by Pat Barker, is, as @janbb states, one of the great reads about WWI

And foor WWII, Arthur Koestler’s magnificent Darkness at Noon.

mammal's avatar

Has anyone mentioned War and Peace? what about Catch 22 that is classic.

Joker94's avatar

As long as you’re okay with WWII not being taken too seriously, Inglourious Basterds is a great movie. That’s actually how it’s spelled for the movie title

blueiiznh's avatar

@mammal War and Peace is not relative to WWI or WWII, but loosy set during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800’s.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m reading the new Ken Follett. The story begins just before WWI. It’s a century trilogy.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Nevil Shute also has a number of WWII novels, I don’t remember all the titles but some are The Chequer Board, The Breaking Wave, Most Secret and Pied Piper. All very good.

absalom's avatar

<Obligatorily imprecise Gravity’s Rainbow recommendation.>

janbb's avatar

Defiance is a better movie to see than Inglorious Bastards since Bastards is not factual at all, in my opinion.

aprilsimnel's avatar

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. He was an ambulance driver in WWI on the Italian Front.

flutherother's avatar

Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon is a fictionalised account of experiences in World War 1
Mila 18 by Leon Uris is a novel set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War 11. Again, though fiction, it is based on actual events.

Not all non fiction is a dry account of events. There are many personal testimonies from both wars that can give you a very good insight.

Earthgirl's avatar

Joker94 I liked Inglourious Basterds in spite of it’s irreverent take on a serious subject. Put that down to a great performance by Christoph Waltz. Can’t wait to see him in Water For Elephants movie
janbb I’m sure Defiance is a great movie but I was a little tired when watching it and I kept falling asleep. Not sure if it was the movie or just me being tired. I am fascinated with the story of German Resistance fighters. And it’s a story that needs to be told. Not enough people know about it. My mother is friends with the Mom of author Peter Duffy who wrote the book The Bielski Brothers(2003) I haven’t read that book but I read one before that on a similar topic that was written by Italian author Primo Levi If Not Now, When?
Powerful book….It is fiction but rooted in historical events that Levi himself had experienced firsthand…here is the link to description

Jay484's avatar

@Earthgirl what type of hisrtoy, american, British, or Canadian…. a good book for canadian history is “Vimy” by Pierre Berton

gailcalled's avatar

The Painted Bird by Jerzi Kosinski. The author has been accused of plagiarism, but that does not diminish the power of the novel…a story of a young Jewish or Gipsyboy who wanders around Poland during WWII.

Earthgirl's avatar

Jay484 Any and all!

Jay484's avatar

alright well im reading a book about the Canadians at hong kong in ww2 “the Dammed”

Joker94's avatar

@janbb I have yet to see Defiance. You’re right, though, Basterds is not historically accurate at all. It’s more like a ridiculously over-the-top fairytale set against the backdrop of WWII. I still love it ^.^
@Earthgirl Christoph Waltz gets bonus points for playing the only Nazi that you can actually like.

WestRiverrat's avatar

A Classic I almost forgot about. All Quiet on the Western Front set the standard for WWI fiction.

Cruiser's avatar

Gee I was reading this thread and was stunned to see no one mentioned until @WestRiverrat threw out All’s Quiet on the Western Front. Really no better account of life in and on the battle front.

Earthgirl's avatar

Cruiser It is a great book, but probably no one mentioned it because I said in my question that I have already read it! :)

tranquilsea's avatar

Jackdaws by Ken Follett follows female spies during WWII. It’s a great book.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@tranquilsea : Wow. I just started rereading that 2 days ago, and I didn’t even think to mention it! Good on ya! silly me

tranquilsea's avatar

@JilltheTooth Isn’t that torture scene in the beginning creepy? It’s been a long time since I read it. I need to read it again.

ZAGWRITER's avatar

well @janbb , the OP did ask for a fictional account, so bringing up Inglorious Basterds fits more than Defiance does, I think. I’ll second A Farewell To Arms and Saving Private Ryan as far as fictional accounts go.

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