Tag Archives: war

#26 All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

8 Dec
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5 (128K+ ratings)

My rating: 8/10

First published: 29th January 1929

Genre: Historical Fiction, War

This book is not very long. It’s less than 300 pages and is broken up into short chapters, which makes it super quick to get through. It’s from the perspective of an early 20s man called Paul Bäumer, who is a German soldier who is convinced by his teacher, along with the rest of his classmates, to join the German army at the start of WWI. It details his experiences, along with his best friends’, on the front line, in training, and on leave.

I’ve read quite a few books that are set during wars, and whilst all are quite sad, none have ever got to me as much as this one. The level of detail about how Paul is feeling while sitting in the trenches on the front line, cowering from the shelling, and watching friends die while he starves, is incredible and devastating.

It was weird reading this knowing it was from a German soldiers perspective for two reasons – a) because I’ve never read a wartime book that was from a German’s perspective and b) I feel like I should be ‘going for’ the other side when reading these sorts of books as my Grandfather fought in WWII for the English side, and I’ve always felt like I should ‘go’ for England. Yet reading this book you totally forget that you’re reading about a German soldier. It feels like it could be any soldier in any war, and I felt sad for him regardless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s pretty raw, and it gave me more insight into war (which was devastating). The book is well written, and the ending is just right.

Notable quotes

We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers – we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals.

When we went to the District Commandant to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts for a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life. We were still crammed with vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also, an ideal and almost romantic character. 

The soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three-quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions, and they give an intimate flavor to expressions of his greatest joy as well as of his deepest indignation.

But the shelling is stronger than everything. It wipes out the sensibilities, I merely crawl still deeper in the coffin, it should protect me, and especially as Death himself lies in it too.

In the branches dead men are hanging. A naked soldier is squatting in the fork of a tree, he still has his helmet on, otherwise he is entirely unclad. There is only half of him sitting up there, the top half, the legs are missing.

“It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?” 

-H-

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#21 A Clash of Kings – George R R Martin

5 May

A Song of Ice & Fire – Book 2 of 7

A Clash of Kings - George R R Martin

A Clash of Kings – George R R Martin

Goodreads rating: 4.37 (208,000+ ratings)

My rating: 7/10

Why it’s on the list: I finished the first book last year, and want to continue the series and finish this book before I watch Season 2 of the TV show.

First published: November 16th, 1998 by Bantan Spectra

Genre: Fantasy/Epic

Following immediately on from A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings is revolved around a Civil War within Westeros, with multiple Kings in battle for ‘The Iron Throne’ – Joffrey Baratheon, current King of the Iron Throne; Stannis Baratheon, King in Dragonstone; Renly Baratheon, King in Highgarden; Robb Stark, the King in the North; and Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands. Unbeknownst to these men, there is a 6th person vying for power – Daenerys Targaryen, The Queen in the East who is the last Dragonborn, who has 3 dragons, and wishes to  her team of warriors across The Narrow Sea to conquer Westeros.

Whilst all these houses are battling for power – whether it be in war, or with damaging words – the men of the Night’s Watch are protecting Westeros on the Wall from the terrible creatures who live North of it.

It sounds confusing – and there’s no doubt it can be – however, like the first book, it’s told in chapters from the perspectives of 9 different characters:

  • Tyrion Lannister, the uncle of King Joffrey, and also the Hand of the King, a treacherous position to be in since previous Hands have been killed.
  • Lady Catelyn Stark, King Robb’s mother
  • Ser Davos Seaworth, loyal knight to King Stannis
  • Sansa Stark, eldest daughter of Catelyn, sister of Robb, and is currently betrothed to King Joffrey
  • Arya Stark, daughter of Catelyn and sister of Robb, escaped from the clutches of King Joffrey’s mother Cersei, and is presumed dead
  • Bran Stark, son of Catelyn, brother of Robb, current Lord of Winterfell and crippled
  • Theon Greyjoy, son of King Balon, and formerly in service to the Starks
  • Jon Snow, King Robb’s bastard brother, part of the Night’s Watch
  • Daenerys Targaryen, Queen in the East

Also like the last one, there is an extensive list of all the different Houses and characters at the back of the book, and how they’re all related, which is also confusing given the amount of incest in this book! It’s full of what you’d want in an epic fantasy novel – love, murder, betrayal, humour, violence, revenge, and sex.

The other great thing about this novel, was the new sides you get to see of the characters. In the first book I hated Tyrion Lannister, and thought he was vile, but I love him in this book, and as you’ll see below, he has some fantastic quotes. On the flip side, I had no issues with Theon Greyjoy in the first book, but now I hate him!

It’s a great story, and a good follow-up book to A Game of Thrones, however I don’t think enough happens in it, but it’s definitely worth reading. I’ve read some things that you don’t need to have read the first book to understand the second, but that’s 100% wrong. I believe if you don’t read the first book, you’ll be completely lost and you would’ve missed out on some really important facts.

Notable quotes

“Those are brave men. Let’s go kill them” – Tyrion Lannister

Did Ned Stark dress you like that? Was it his pleasure to garb you in velvets and silks and make you his own sweet daughter?” – Balon Greyjoy to his son Theon

“I won’t cry. I won’t do that. I’m a Stark of Winterfell, our sigil is the direwolf, direwolves don’t cry.” – Arya Stark

“She wore a gown of pale purple silk and a moonstone hairnet that had been a gift from Joffrey. The gown had long sleeves to hide the bruises on her arms. Those were Joffrey’s gifts as well” – Sansa Stark

“His lips look like two worms fucking” – Theon Greyjoy

“I’m sorry for your loss as well, Joffrey.
“What loss?”
“Your royal father? A large fierce man with a black beard; you’ll recall him if you try. He was king before you.”
– Tyrion Lannister to Joffrey

“Did you think I was as blind as Father? Who you lie with is no matter to me… although it doesn’t seem quite just that you should open your legs for one brother and not the other. Be gentle, Cersei, I’m only jesting with you. If truth be told, I’d sooner have a nice whore. I never understood what Jaime saw in you, apart from his own reflection.” – Tyrion Lannister

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” – Tyrion Lannister

“Tears are not a woman’s only weapon. You’ve got another one between your legs and you’d best learn to use it. You’ll find men use their swords freely enough. Both kinds of swords.” Cersei Lannister

“He speaks more gently than Joffrey, she thought, but the queen spoke to me gently too. He’s still a Lannister, her brother and Joff’s uncle, and no friend. Once she had loved Prince Joffrey with all her heart, and admired and trusted his mother, the queen. They had repaid her love and trust with her father’s head. Sansa would never make that mistake again.”  Sansa Stark

“Tell me, at what moment during all of this do you stop to BLOW YOUR FUCKING HORN?” – Theon Greyjoy

“Jaime reached for the flagon to refill his cup. “So many vows… They make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.” – Jaime Lannister

-H-

#7 The Bronze Horseman – Paullina Simons

17 Dec
The Bronze Horseman - Front Cover

The Bronze Horseman – Front Cover

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my copy of this book, so have taken this image from Google Books. This is the same edition of the book that I read.

Goodreads rating: 4.39 (11,100+ ratings)

My rating: 7/10

Why it’s on the list: Earlier this year, I went into Dymocks on the corner of Hunter & Pitt Street in the CBD and they had their top 50 books (or something like that), and you could buy 3 for the price of 2. I ended up buying this, Freedom, and something else I can’t remember.

First published: April 2nd, 2001 by HarperCollins

Genre: Romance, Drama, Historical Fiction

Set during WWII, originally in Leningrad, Russia, is a story of love and loss in a time of war. The Bronze Horseman starts on 22nd June 1942, the day that Russia enters the war, and main character Tatiana Metanova meets the mysterious Red Army officer Alexander Belov. Just shy of 17, Tatiana is naive and innocent when it comes to love, dating and sex. Unlike her older sister, Dasha, who ends up dating Alexander.

The war in Russia continues, and many people close to Tatiana die due to starvation or injuries. The main challenges she faces are, obviously, war and hunger, but also the struggle of suppressing her feelings for Alexander, and eventually the obstacles that keep them apart.

loved this book, and found it hard to put down. The first half, about Tatiana’s life in Leningrad, was long but so interesting to me. I love anything set in the world wars (particularly Europe in WWII), and the suffering her family endured was terrible. Later in the book, Tatiana and Alexander are finally having a life together, and this part dragged on for me. Basically there was a whole few hundred pages of Wake up. Have sex. Eat. Have sex. Swim. Have sex. Eat. Have sex. Tatiana do household duties. Have sex. which can get a bit tedious.

However once they are then separated again, you realise how much you miss their boring days of sex, eating and sleeping, and how badly you wish they could go back to that time in their lives. There are lots of hurdles, changes and issues that arise for Tatiana and Alexander, and the ending of this book is sad. However, there are 2 more books in the series, which are on my List.

A great thing about the edition I read, was that it had 2 maps in the cover. One of Russia and surrounding countries, with all the cities that are mentioned/visited in the book. And one of Leningrad, so you could see where Tatiana’s family lived, where she worked, and could track what was happening during the war. I’m a big fan of maps in books that have a lot to do with the geography of a place, so I definitely found this useful.

I highly recommend this book. You really get drawn in, and I personally really loved Tatiana’s character. Not so much Alexander’s, because I personally think he’s a bit of a pig, but she is lovely.

-H-

#4 Fall of Giants – Ken Follett

3 Dec

The Century Trilogy – Book 1 of 3

Fall of Giants - Front Cover

Fall of Giants – Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 4.14 (35,000+ ratings)

My rating: 9/10

Why it’s on the list: About  5 or so months ago I was looking for book recommendations (Around the same time I started The List), and a good friend of mine recommended it to me. When she first sent me the synopsis I said no straight away, because it sounded long, rambling and boring. But once I saw another summary I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did.

First published: September 28th, 2010 by Pan Macmillan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Epic

Fall of Giants follows five interrelated families from America, Germany, Russia, Wales & England and is set between 1911 and 1924, and covers huge events including WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. It is full of love, scandalous sex, betrayal, war, loss, hatred, family ties, loyalty (both to family and country) and aristocracy.

When I first bought this book, I couldn’t believe how HUGE it seemed. But thankfully, it’s broken up into chapters that have small ‘mini-chapters’ within it, which makes it much easier to tackle. The story is so easy to get lost in, and the great thing about it is that you can totally relate to the people and their stories, even though it was set almost 100 years ago.

Cast of Characters - Fall of Giants

Cast of Characters – Fall of Giants

I found myself much more interested in the fate of the English, Welsh and Russian families than the German or the American, however they really are all interrelated and woven within each other that you can’t have one family’s story without the rest of them. Although the chapters jumped from one country to another, it was really easy to keep track of the families thanks to the handy index at the beginning, listing all the families, their acquaintances, and real historical figures from the time, as you can see in the photo to the left.

Every night when I’d read in bed, I felt like I was losing myself in a totally different world, and once I’d finished the book I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. I think whenever you feel like you’re going to miss a book and its characters, you’ve found a gem.

Bits & pieces

  • Fall of Giants was checked by eight historians. [Source]

-H-

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