New at the library
“The War to end all Wars,” or World War I, began on July 28, 1914. The War ended on November 11, 1918. As you can imagine, the world is getting ready to commemorate a variety of centennials for this European conflict over the next four years. Readers will see a resurgence of interest in World War I and will want to read, listen or watch the books and films detailing the conflict. The Peter White Public Library has a number of items about “The Great War.”
John Keegan has written The First World War. This book explains how the War abruptly ended the peace and prosperity of the Victorian era with a conflict of unprecedented ferocity. Keegan’s goal is to present to the reader the definitive account of the war, so that all can understand the how three great empires involved collapsed and how the scars of this war still affect the politics and culture of today.
“War Horse,” the 2012 film directed by Steven Spielberg is an epic adventure that recounts the relationship between a horse named Joey and his trainer Albert. The tale is set against the drama and trauma of World War I and follows Joey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone whose path he crosses. The realistic battle scenes and mature nature of this film may be too graphic for children.
“Paths of Glory” is a classic anti-war novel written by Humphrey Cobb in 1935. The story follows the author before and after his arrival on the Western Front. Cobb was a privliged American living in Florence before being sent to England to school at the age of 13. His parents decided to return to the United States when he was 16. He was expelled from school and in September 1916 went to Montreal to enlist in the Canadian forces. He had an undistinguished military career and in an effort to escape a boring advertising agency job he pens his memoir. Paths of Glory was also made into a Stanley Kubrick film by the same title in 1957.
Vera Brittain (1893-1970) grew up in northern England and abandoned her studies at Oxford to enlist as a military nurse during World War I. Before the war ended, she served in London, Malta and close to the Western Front in France. Testament to Youth is her autobiography of those years and a moving account of loss and an elegy for the generation that was lost in the trenches of World War I.
Poet Robert Graves memoir “Goodbye to All That” is considered one of the era’s greatest memoirs. Graves recounts his life from childhood through the brutal war. He served as an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and during his service was extensively wounded numerous times. He suffered from what would today be called post-traumatic stress and battled with other veterans, including Siegfried Sassoon over the contents of his book.
Siegfried Sassoon was a contemporary of Robert Graves. A noted poet and decorated war hero, he publicly refused to continue as a British officer. He claimed the war “was a senseless slaughter.” As a result he was classified “mentally unsound” and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. “Regeneration” by Pat Barker is the fictionalized account of Sassoon’s battle for his mind.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, “August 1914” is being reprinted for the centennial of the ill-fated Russian offensive into East Prussia which resulted into the encirclement and defeat of General Samsonov’s Second Army by Hindenberg. This work of fiction deals with the opening two weeks of the War and was controversial on both the literary and historical fronts when it was first published. Some consider this Solzhenitsyn’s master work while others regard it as a treasonous attack on Russia.
Miranda Carter’s book “George, Nicholas and Whilhem; Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I” is available from the Great Lakes Digital Library collection of downloadable audio books.
This book shows how the three first cousins ruling Britain, Russia and Germany were blind to the new realities of the Twentieth Century. Their judgment and ability to rule were also hampered by personal and political ties.
There will be many more titles published about World War I in the ensuing four years, but these items in the PWPL collection will give readers and viewers a good start.