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War through reading

July 17, 2014

What first springs to mind when the topic of #warread arises? The theme spans a variety of genres and sub genres so readers are flooded with possibilities: from fiction to military history to poetry and biographies. War is presented from a variety of perspectives; from the soldiers on the frontline to the people on the home front and the future generations whose lives have been altered.

Most people of our generation think of the First and Second World Wars when war is mentioned. Both wars shaped the form our world takes today, but war is not a new phenomenon. Wars have been fought through every historical era, from the Romans to the Tudors, to the 21st century we live in today. It is therefore appropriate that many authors choose to depict such a key theme in their writing.

Those interested in war have the luxury of being able to read about the majority of wars both in fiction and non-fiction format. If one was looking to read about the War of the Roses I could first look to Alison Weir’s Lancaster and York: the War of the Roses  to provide a historical analysis, and then make my way through Conn Iggulden’s War of the Roses series of fictional interpretation.

#warread enables a reader to be transported to a battle scene or moment in history and picture characters being affected by a war in which real people’s lives were altered. Those interested in Roman battles can look to Simon Scarrow’s Under the Eagle to step right back to seeing war from the perspective of thousands of years ago. There’s also Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell which takes the reader straight into the Hundred Years War. And who can forget that the backdrop to Gone with the Wind is war in the form of the American Civil War? 20th century authors such as Irene Nemirovsky who wrote Suite Francaise and Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22 also chose to write about modern war using the setting of World War Two. What this goes to show is how unlikely it is that a reader has never come across a war scene in any of their reading.

Anzac Day background, vectorThe First World War is currently at the forefront of people’s thoughts, and with the centenary fast approaching, we can look back on the war as acting as a catalyst for much of the war literature we still read today. Most notably, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth and the vast array of poetry produced by soldiers on the frontline including Siegfred Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The fact that these pieces of literature are still relevant in 2014 says a lot for the force war can create in our #warread.

War can encompass a whole book, however #warread does not just mean books. We see war in films such as All Quiet on the Western Front, music, art and a variety of other formats, so whichever media form you’re feeling in the mood for, you’re bound to find an array of possibilities which feature the major theme of War.

Annalisa Timbrell from Surrey Libraries

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