Today is Veterans’ Day, a day when we honor those men and women who have served in the American armed forces. The observance was established on November 11, which was the day on which the armistice to end WWI took place (at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918). Though the day celebrates all veterans, there is still one American veteran living who can remember Armistice Day: Frank Buckles, who is 109!
We’ll honor today by looking at novels of WWI. Most of the following take place during the war, but some offer a look at what happened afterward. Pick up one of these and use the day to acquaint yourself with that time – and don’t forget to thank a veteran! (All annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus!)
Flanders: A Novel by Patricia Anthony
- Texan Travis Lee Stanhope graduates from Harvard and goes to France in 1916, where he at first enjoys killing Germans in their foxholes, but as his comrades are gassed and gutted, he begins to hallucinate.
By a Slow River by Philippe Claudel
- As the First World War ravages Europe, the daily life of a small French town near the front is little disturbed by the war, until the deaths of three innocents–a charming schoolmistress who takes her own life, the wife of a local police officer who diesin childbirth, and a young girl, found murdered–turn the town upside down.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
- After loving and losing a French woman from Amiens, Stephen Wraysford serves in the French army during World War I.
The Rage of Angels by Alan Fisher
- A young aviator battles with fading innocence in a story of love and war that evokes the nature of comradeship in unsentimental images of a generation of young men caught up in the First World War.
Over There by Thomas J. Fleming
- A nurses’ aide, Polly Warden, returns to England from World War I in France cynical and no longer innocent.
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
- Follows the fates of five interrelated families–American, German, Russian, English and Welsh–as they move through the world-shaking dramas of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.
Deafening by Frances Itani
- Left profoundly deaf from scarlet fever, Grania O’Neill grows up protected from the hearing world and learning sign language, but her life changes when she falls in love with Jim Lloyd, a hearing man, on the eve of the Great War.
Depths by Henning Mankell
- Sent on a mission to take covert depth readings around the Stockholm archipelago, World War I Swedish naval officer Lars Tobiasson-Svartman finds himself attracted to a young widow whose wild nature is in total contrast to his wife’s reserved personality.
The Last Summer of the World by Emily Mitchell
- In the summer of 1918, with the Germans threatening Paris, Edward Steichen arrives in France to photograph the war for the American army. Flying over the fields of France, Steichen struggles to understand what went wrong in his seemingly idyllic life. His search for answers takes him into his own complex past, toward a painful self-understanding and the discovery of new ways of seeing the world.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque
- Five German students are drafted into World War I.
War Story: A Novel by Derek Robinson
- During the Great War, Oliver Paxton wins his wings, takes a plane to France, and plans to become a hero until he finally understands the futility of his desires.
To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War by Jeff Shaara
- In the spring of 1918, when America enters World War I, the world waits to see if the tide of war can be turned with the renewed spirit and strength of the untested American Expeditionary Force under General John “BlackJack” Pershing.
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
- The powerful story of a young boy and his tragic fate in World War I makes a terrifying statement on the horrors of war and a compelling plea for peace.
My French Whore by Gene Wilder
- Recounts the tale of a midwestern World War I soldier whose capture by German forces prompts him to impersonate a famous German spy and pursue a romantic relationship with a beautiful courtesan.