As I began to write my novel “Love of Finished Years,” part of which follows an American soldier on the Western Front, it surprised me how little there was in the way of World War 1 fiction. It has been woefully under-treated in both literature and cinema, particularly when compared to World War 2.
Here is a list of my five favorite World War 1 novels. Beyond the first two, which have become classics, the rest are much lesser known works. I would be curious to hear others’ favorite World War 1 novels.
1. All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque
The story of a young German in the trenches, who quickly loses his excitement for battle and struggles to hold onto his humanity as the war drags on.
2. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway draws on his experience as a volunteer in Italy during the war to tell this gripping wartime love story.
3. Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks
An Englishman’s pre-war affair in France, leads him to the dark world tunneling beneath the trenches of the front.
4. Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo
A soldier loses all his limbs in an explosion. This is the story of a man reflecting on the war and his life, while feeling trapped inside his body. This was a powerful anti-war statement novel.
5. A Very Long Engagement, by Sébastien Japrisot
A French girl searches for her fiancé after the war, not believing he is really dead. I’m always a sucker for a good love story!
Honorable mention to a few others which I haven’t read yet.
August 1914, by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett
Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden
The Road Back, by Erich Maria Remarque