WWI in Fiction and Memoirs: A Selected List

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Aldington, Richard. Death of a Hero, 1929.
The title is bitterly ironic. A shell-shocked British Army captain deliberately steps into the line of fire on the eve of the Armistice and his friend, the narrator, traces the misplaced notions of heroism that forced him to this end.

Anthony, Patricia. Flanders, 1998.
The story of a Texas boy at the Front in France told through his letters home. The real story is between the lines.

Barbusse, Henri. Under Fire, 1917
An epic account of the life of an ordinary soldier in the French army filled with grim details.

Barker, Pat. Regeneration, 1991. The Eye in the Door, 1993. The Ghost Road, 1995
A trilogy that encompasses every aspect of the war - the Front, the home front, asylums for the shell shocked, even the Irish rebellion - told with great drama and compassion. All characters, historical and fictional, are well portrayed but especially brilliant are Dr. Rivers, the humane psychiatrist, and Billy Prior, the soldier who embodies all the ambiguities of war. Booker award winner and among the best WWI books written.

Carr, J.J. A Month in the Country, 1980.
A shell shocked soldier recuperates while restoring a medieval fresco in an English country church. Very touching novella on wounding and healing.

Cather, Willa. One of Ours, 1922.
A young Nebraska farmer trapped in an unhappy marriage and looking for a higher meaning to life finds it by going to Europe and fighting for a noble cause. Although this won the Pulitzer Prize, it is an ultimately unsatisfying depiction of war as only one who never got near combat could write.

Faulkner, William. A Soldier's Pay, 1926
A soldier badly disfigured and suffering memory loss from the war returns to his small Southern hometown to find further trauma and disillusionment. In the "Lost Generation" literary tradition.

Faulkner, William. A Fable, 1954
Winner of the Pulitzer and National Book Award. An allegorical story ostensibly about the mutiny of a French regiment masterminded by a corporal and his twelve comrades (disciples?) which brings about a temporary peace and retaliation by the powers that be. Faulkner considered this his masterpiece.

Faulks, Sebastian. Birdsong, 1993
A young Englishman returns as a soldier to the Somme where, before the war, he had had a passionate affair with a French woman. The book accomplishes with powerful prose the unlikely blend of a horrific tale of trench warfare with a touching love story.

Ford, Ford Madox. Parade's End: Some Do Not, 1924; No More Parades, 1924; A Man Could Stand Up, 1926; The Last Post, 1928
The tetralogy charts the way the war changes forever the world of the upperclass Englishman. A very successful depiction of what the war was like at the Front and the home front and a neglected masterpiece.

Hasek, Jaroslav. The Good Soldier Svejk, 1973
A black comic novel set on the Eastern front that satirizes the military war machine and military glory. Catch-22 is clearly in its debt.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms, 1929
Based on Hemingway's experiences as an ambulance driver in Italy. A "Lost Generation" novel of disillusionment with the war and the values that brought it about.

Hill, Susan. Strange Meeting, 1971
The story of two young British officers who form a friendship in the trenches. Realistic and poignant portrayal. The title is from a Wilfred Owen poem.

Hull, Jonathan. Losing Julia, 2000
An old man looks back on his horrific experiences as an American soldier in France and his doomed love affair with the woman his comrade left behind when he was killed in battle.

Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929
The German side of the trenches seen through the eyes of a young recruit. One of the classic anti-war novels.

Sassoon, Siegfried. The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, Sherston's Progress), 1937
The fictionalized memoir of the great war poet who was awarded the Military Cross but then risked court martial to protest the war.

Wells, H. G. Mr. Britling Sees it Through, 1916
Study of home front disillusionment during the final stages of the war.

Williamson, Henry. The Patriot's Progress, 1930
The semi-autobiographical account of a London insurance clerk's "progress" from naïve recruit through battlefront horror to a disillusioned and disoriented return to civilian life.

Williamson, Henry. How Dear is Life, 1954; A Fox Under My Cloak, 1955; The Golden Virgin, 1957; Love and the Loveless, 1958; A Test to Destruction, 1960
These five volumes out of the 15 volume Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight depict in great detail and psychological depth the wartime experiences of a sensitive young man at home and in the trenches.


Blunden, Edmund. Undertones of War, 1928
One of the great war poets who saw action on the Somme, where he was awarded the Military Cross, and at Ypres. Excellent account of the Front and the home front.

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth, 1933
A British writer and feminist who lost her brother, fiancé, and two close friends in the war and served as a nurse in France and Malta.

Graves, Robert. Goodbye to All That, 1929
A renowned poet, critic, and novelist who was seriously wounded in 1916. His friendships with Sassoon and Owen are highlights of this classic war memoir.

MacDonald, Lyn. 1914-1918, 1988; 1915: The Death Of Innocence, 1993; The Roses of No Man's Land, 1980; Somme, 1983; They Called it Passchendale, 1978; To the Last Man: Spring 1918, 1999
Macdonald has tied together with her own narrative interviews and excerpts from letters and diaries of participants of the war at home and at the Front to provide a compelling group memoir.

O'Shea, Stephen. Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I, 1996
Over the course of several years, O'Shea walked the entire western front to try to understand the war that killed his grandfather, a Canadian soldier. A latter-day memoir that includes thoughtful comment on memorializing war.

Companion Works

Giddings, Robert. The War Poets, 1988
Selections and commentary on WWI poetry

Keegan, John. The First World War, 1999
Excellent one volume overview of the war by a military historian who writes like a novelist.

Trenches on the Web http://www.worldwar1.com/index.html
Comprehensive website with information, images, reading lists, discussion groups, links to other sites.