Literature has an amazing ability to help us understand, develop empathy, and transport us to places and times that are not our own. As we observe Remembrance Day, great works of literature can remind us why it is crucial that we pause and remember. Here are a few titles to get you started:
Wake, by Anna Hope, follows three women in the days leading up to the interment of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in 1920. Each has survived the war but experienced unthinkable loss, and as the nameless soldier’s body makes its way from the battlefields of France to London, the women struggle to adapt to the new reality of their lives and society at large after the fighting has ended.
All Quiet on the Western Front, the classic novel by Erich Maria Remarque, still has the power to stun modern audiences with its unflinching description of life in the German trenches of World War 1: “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces”.
If you prefer a non-fiction read, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War by military historian Jonathan Vance uncovers the ways in which Canadians memorialized the dead of World War 1. Drawing from media and popular culture of the time, he compares the romantic ideal of a noble war to the cold realities of trench warfare, and describes how the “war to end all wars” shaped the development of Canadian culture and identity.