Literature and War Readalong 2012

People have been announcing their challenges and events for 2012 for a while now so it was about time to let you see the list for next year’s Literature and War Readalong.

It was not easy to compile this list as the books needed to fulfill different criteria one of which was length. I didn’t want to include too many books over 300 pages. The only novel over 500 pages will make up for its length by being very readable.

The other criterion was the country. Like last year, I wanted to include books from as many different countries as possible. I know it looks as if there were more British books than anything else which is true, still I managed to include books from 8 different countries.

I will also join Anna and Selena for the War Through the Generations Challenge that is dedicated to WWI this year. My introductory post is due later this week. The first three novels in the readalong will also count for their challenge.

I have been asked whether it is possible to join but read something different. Since strictly speaking a readalong implies that people read and discuss the same book, it’s difficult but as I’m starting a Literature and War Project I thought of a good solution that will serve anyone who wants to join –  myself as well as I may be in the mood to read more than one novel focusing on war. The idea would be that anyone can join during the last week of the month and either participate in the readalong or review any other war themed book that will then be added to the project page. The objective of the page is to cover many different countries, wars, themes and even genres. For the War Through the Generations Challenge I will for example read a children’s book and maybe a crime novel set in the trenches. Next year I would also like to read a Sci-Fi novel like Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War that has been suggested by Max from Pechorin’s Journal. And finally I would like to read more non-fiction.

This year’s readalong will not always take place on Fridays but alternate between Monday and Friday depending on whether the Friday is during the last week of the month or not.

January, Monday  30

Helen Dunmore Zennor in Darkness , 320 p., England (1993), WWI

Spring, 1917 and war haunts the Cornish coastal village of Zennor: ships are being sunk by U-boats, strangers are treated with suspicion, and newspapers are full of spy-fever. Into this turmoil come DH Lawrence and his German wife Frieda, hoping to escape the war-fever that grips London. They befriend Clare Coyne, a young artist, struggling to console her beloved cousin John William who is on leave from the trenches and suffering from shell shock. Yet the dark tide of gossip and innuendo means that Zennor is neither a place of recovery nor of escape …

February, Monday 27

Sebastian Barry: A Long Long Way , 295 p.,  Ireland (2005), WWI

I discovered the book thanks to a comment from Danielle (A Work in Progress)

One of the most vivid and realised characters of recent fiction, Willie Dunne is the innocent hero of Sebastian Barry’s highly acclaimed novel. Leaving Dublin to fight for the Allied cause as a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, he finds himself caught between the war playing out on foreign fields and that festering at home, waiting to erupt with the Easter Rising. Profoundly moving, intimate and epic, A Long Long Waycharts and evokes a terrible coming of age, one too often written out of history.

March, Friday 30

Jean Giono:  Le grand troupeauTo the Slaughterhouse 224 p., France (1931), WWI

Conscription reaches into the hills as the First World War come to a small Provençal community one blazing August. Giono’s fiercly realistic novel contrasts the wholesale destruction of men, land and animals at the front with the moral disintegration of the lonely and anxious people left behind. Yet not all is despair. The novel ends with a message  of hope.

April, Monday 30

Helen Humphreys: Coventry,172 p., England (2008), WWII

Another book discovered thanks to Danielle (here)

On the night of the most devastating German raid on Coventry, two women traverse the city and transform their hearts. Harriet, widowed during WWI, is “”firewatching”” on the cathedral roof when first the factories and then the church itself are set ablaze. In the ensuing chaos she helps a young man, who reminds her of the husband she has lost, find his way back home where he left his mother.

May, Monday 28th

Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls From The Air, 208 p., England (1942), WWII

I owe the discovery of Balchin to Guy (His Futile Preoccupations) who reviewed two of his books here and  here.

With ostentatious lack of concern, Bill Sarratt, his wife and her lover spend the war wining and dining expensively, occasionally sauntering out into the Blitz with cheerful remarks about the shattered night-life of London’s West End. But beneath the false insouciance lies the real strain of a war that has firmly wrapped them all in its embrace. Wit may crackle at the same pace as buildings burn, but personal tragedy lurks appallingly close at hand.

June, Friday 29

Len Deighton:  Bomber, 532 p., England (1970), WWII

This book is a suggestion from Kevin (The War Movie Buff). It is by far the longest on the list but it should be a very quick read.

The classic novel of the Second World War that relates in devastating detail the 24-hour story of an allied bombing raid.

Bomber is a novel war. There are no victors, no vanquished. There are simply those who remain alive, and those who die.Bomber follows the progress of an Allied air raid through a period of twenty-four hours in the summer of 1943. It portrays all the participants in a terrifying drama, both in the air and on the ground, in Britain and in Germany.In its documentary style, it is unique. In its emotional power it is overwhelming.Len Deighton has been equally acclaimed as a novelist and as an historian. In Bomber he has combined both talents to produce a masterpiece.

July, Monday 30

Masuji Ibuse: Black Rain – Kuroi Ame, 304 p., Japan (1969), WWII

I saw the book mentioned on Rise’s blog (in lieu of a field guide) where is was mentioned by Gary (The Parrish Lantern)

Black Rain is centered around the story of a young woman who was caught in the radioactive “black rain” that fell after the bombing of Hiroshima. lbuse bases his tale on real-life diaries and interviews with victims of the holocaust; the result is a book that is free from sentimentality yet manages to reveal the magnitude of the human suffering caused by the atom bomb. The life of Yasuko, on whom the black rain fell, is changed forever by periodic bouts of radiation sickness and the suspicion that her future children, too, may be affected.

lbuse tempers the horror of his subject with the gentle humor for which he is famous. His sensitivity to the complex web of emotions in a traditional community torn asunder by this historical event has made Black Rain one of the most acclaimed treatments of the Hiroshima story.

August, Friday 31

Aaron Applefeld: The Story of a Life – Sippur chajim, 208 p., Israel (1999), WWII

Aharon Appelfeld was the child of middle-class Jewish parents living in Romania at the outbreak of World War II. He witnessed the murder of his mother, lost his father, endured the ghetto and a two-month forced march to a camp, before he escaped. Living off the land in the forests of Ukraine for two years before making the long journey south to Italy and eventually Israel and freedom, Appelfeld finally found a home in which he could make a life for himself. Acclaimed writer Appelfeld’s extraordinary and painful memoir of his childhood and youth is a compelling account of a boy coming of age in a hostile world.

September, Friday 28

Richard Bausch: Peace, 171 p., US (2008), WWII

This was a suggestion from Sandra Rouse in a comment on one of this year’s readalong posts. 

It’s Italy, near Cassino. The terrible winter of 1944. A dismal icy rain falls, unabated, for days. Three American soldiers set out on the gruelling ascent of a perilous Italian mountainside in the murky closing days of the Second World War. Haunted by their sergeant’s cold-blooded murder of a young girl, and with only an old man of uncertain loyalties as their guide, they truge on in a state of barely suppressed terror and confusion. With snipers lying in wait for them, the men are confronted by agonizing moral choices…Taut and propulsive – Peace is a feat of economy, compression, and imagination, a tough and unmistakably contemporary meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy.

October, Monday 29

Maria Angels Anglada The Auschwitz Violin – El violí d’Auschwitz, 128 p., Spain (1994), WWII

In the winter of 1991, at a concert in Krakow, an older woman with a marvelously pitched violin meets a fellow musician who is instantly captivated by her instrument. When he asks her how she obtained it, she reveals the remarkable story behind its origin.

Written with lyrical simplicity and haunting beauty—and interspersed with chilling, actual Nazi documentation—The Auschwitz Violin is more than just a novel: It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of beauty, art, and hope to triumph over the darkest adversity.

November, Friday 30

Gert Ledig The Stalin Front  –  Die Stalinorgel , 198 p., Germany (1955), WWII

1942, at the Eastern Front. Soldiers crouch in horrible holes in the ground, mingling with corpses. Tunneled beneath a radio mast, German soldiers await the order to blow themselves up. Russian tanks, struggling to break through enemy lines, bog down in a swamp, while a German runner, bearing messages from headquarters to the front, scrambles desperately from shelter to shelter as he tries to avoid getting caught in the action. Through it all, Russian artillery—the crude but devastatingly effective multiple rocket launcher known to the Germans as the Stalin Organ and to the Russians as Katyusha—rains death upon the struggling troops.

December, Friday 28

Michael Herr: Dispatches, 262 p., US (1977) Vietnam

This novel has been suggested by at least three people. Kevin (The War Movie Buff) and Max (Pechorin’s Journal)

If you’ve seen the movies Apocalypse Now and Platoon, in whose scripts Michael Herr had a hand, you have a pretty good idea of Herr’s take on Vietnam: a hallucinatory mess, the confluence of John Wayne and LSD.Dispatches reports remarkable front-line encounters with an acid-dazed infantryman who can’t wait to get back into the field and add Viet Cong kills to his long list (“I just can’t hack it back in the World”, he says); with a helicopter door gunner who fires indiscriminately into crowds of civilians; with daredevil photojournalist Sean Flynn, son of Errol, who disappeared somewhere inside Cambodia. Although Herr has admitted that parts of his book are fictional, this is meaty, essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Vietnam.

I hope that many of you will feel tempted by the one or the other title on the list and am looking forward to great discussions. The books are all very different in tone, style and themes. As always there are a some I can hardly wait to read.


How does the readalong work?

This is just a quick info for those who are new to blogging and /or the readalong.

I will review the book on a set date during the last week of the month. If you choose to read along you can either participate in the discussion in the comments page or post a review on your blog. I will add all the links to the reviews at the bottom of my posts.

The books are usually announced with some additional information or a short introduction at the beginning of the month.


Introductory Post with comments

January Introduction – Zennor in Darkness

January – Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

February Introduction- A Long Long Way

February – A Long Long Way by Sebastaina Barry

Introduction February – To the Slaughterhouse – Le grand troupeau

March – To the Slaughterhouse – Le grand troupeau by Jean Giono

Introduction April – Coventry

April – Coventry by Helen Humphreys

Introduction May – Darkness Falls From the Air 

May – Darkness Falls From the Air by Nigel Balchin

Introduction June – Bomber 

June – Bomber by Len Deighton

Introdcution July – Black Rain- Kuroi Ame

July – Black Rain- Kuroi Ame by Masuji Ibuse

Introduction August – The Story of a Life

August – The Story of a Life – Sippur chajim by Aharon Applefeld

Introduction – September – Peace

September – Peace by Richard Bausch

Introduction – October – The Auschwitz Violin

October The Auschwith Violin by Maria Angels Anglada

Introduction November – The Stalin Front 

November The Stalin Front by Gert Ledig

Introduction December – Dispatches

December Dispatches by Michael Herr


40 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong 2012

  1. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong January 30 2012: Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  2. Pingback: Helen Dunmore: Zennor in Darkness (1993) Literature and War Readalong January 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  3. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong February 27 2012: A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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  5. Pingback: Sebastian Barry: A Long Long Way (2005) Literature and War Readalong February 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  6. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong March 30 2012: To the Slaughterhouse – Le grand troupeau by Jean Giono « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  7. Few days ago I visited the library…I couldn’t find Ibuse’s book…maybe I haven’t searched carefully, will look it up again later. However, I found a book of 4 short stories about war. I will read it after I finish my current book…maybe it will intrigue you 🙂

  8. Pingback: Muriel Spark E-Book Giveaway and Readalong Plans for April and May « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  9. Pingback: Jean Giono: To the Slaughterhouse – Le grand troupeau (1931) Literature and War Readalong March 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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  11. Pingback: Helen Humphreys: Coventry (2008) Literature and War Readalong April 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  12. Pingback: Coventry: Literature and War Readalong | 50 Year Project

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  14. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong May 28 2012: Darkness Falls From the Air – Nigel Balchin « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  15. Pingback: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls From the Air (1942) Literature and War Readalong May 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  16. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong June 29 2012: Bomber by Len Deighton « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  17. Pingback: Japanese Literature Challenge « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  18. Pingback: Len Deighton: Bomber (1970) Literature and War Readalong June 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  19. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong July 30 2012: Black Rain – Kuroi Ame by Masuji Ibuse « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  20. Pingback: Masuji Ibuse: Black Rain – Kuroi Ame (1969) Literature and War Readalong July 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  21. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong August 31 2012: The Story of a Life – Sippur chajim by Aharon Appelfeld « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  22. Pingback: Aharon Applefeld: The Story of a Life – Sippur chajim (1999) Literature and War Readalong August 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  23. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong September 2012: Peace by Richard Bausch « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  24. Pingback: Richard Bausch: Peace (2008) Literature and War Readalong September 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  25. Caroline, I’ve read some of the materials you have written about Literature and War as topics, and I notice that you mention you’d be open to reading more non-fiction. What do you think of Salman Rushdie’s new memoir “Joseph Anton,” an excerpt of which was published (at least online) in this month’s “The New Yorker”? True, it is about terrorism and a sort of guerilla warfare, but these are increasingly what our wars are about. I can tell by some of your choices that you are interested in wars as far forward in time as the Vietnam War, so I just thought I’d mention this one. It might be inconvenient as a whole book, because I understand it runs over 600 pages, but there’s always the excerpt in “The New Yorker,” which runs some 30 pages or so, I suspect. By the way, be careful when you send copies to someone from that website (the magazine). It left an e-mail box to send to other people, but when I tried to send a copy of the page to my brother, I got a notice back that there was something wrong with the link and it was unsafe to open; that is, I had no trouble reading it, but had trouble sending the link to someone else. I’ve never had that problem with “The New Yorker” before, though, so maybe they’ve fixed it by now. The name of the memoir is a combination of Rushdie’s two favorite writers’ names, Joseph (Conrad) and Anton (Chekhov), and was apparently the name he went by when he was being protected by British security forces after writing “The Satanic Verses.” And, recently a new bounty has been put on his head, though I’m not sure whether or not it’s because of the memoir. Anyway, that’s what I’ve read on the Internet: one can never be sure until more than one news agency reports it, I guess.

    • Thanks for mentioning it. I might look at the excerpt but 600 pages of non-fiction is a bit too long.
      I was thinking about including non-fiction next year but if I would one a more general topic like “On Killing” or some such book.
      Anything else would generate zero participants.

  26. I don’t know how much time you have right now to invest in researching for so far ahead as next year, given all the things you’re doing now for this year, but there’s a site called NARRATIVE at and Richard, though he comments on some fiction, covers a lot of memoir and non-fiction. He has unearthed a number of things that interested me. Just thought you might like to have a look at his site. He’s sort of wearing several “hats,” because he’s not only a memoir writer himself, but a reviewer, a farmer, a teacher, and I may be leaving something else out. Anyway, I think discussion between the two of you would be outstanding, whether about memoir or fiction, non-fiction or the sort of half-fictional autobiography that often gets written nowadays.

    • Thanks so much, that sounds like a great site. I’ll have a look. I like people who wear several hats. the lsit for 2013 is pretty much compiled. I think maybe one title is missing but I’m looking for something very specific. A novel with the POV of a nurse or a novel on the Spanish Civil War.

  27. Hemingway’s a natural on the Spanish Civil War since he was there and fought in it. I haven’t read “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a while, but I’m fairly sure after all this time that it’s about that and not about Italy. Also, there’s “The Fifth Column,” though I believe it’s a play. The only thing about Hemingway is that he may be a bit overdone by people so far, so you may want something else. As to the novel from a nurse’s POV, I don’t know about that specifically, but there’s “Cutting for Stone,” about a hospital and the families who run it during Ethiopia’s war for independence. It is told partly by a boy imagining his mother’s point of view, and she is a nurse (a nun as well) who died. But then it switches to his point of view entirely (and he is to become a doctor), so you may not want it. It does have many female medical characters in it however, and is a very, very good book. Sorry, but those are all the suggestions I can come up with. My brain is running dry!

    • Thanks, that’s alright. I wouldn’t choose Hemingway as I’ve read him and I wanted something from the Spanish persective but not Javier Cercas. I’ve got Cutting for Stone and heard it’s quite good but too bulky for a readalong title. We need to stay under 250 pages. But thanks.

  28. Yes, I can tell you’re invested in bringing forth for consideration writers in each of the countries’ perspectives who’ve seen war up close, and I applaud that, because it gets interaction going between people from different countries. I didn’t know about the 250 page limit, but it makes sense.

    • The first year I didn’t limit and I ended up being the only one reading 700+ book and it was hard for me as well.
      This year we had a 500+ book but it was a quick read not as literary and dense as the one from 2011. Anyway, I thought the chances to have people participate are higher with shorter books.

  29. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong October 2012: The Auschwitz Violin – El Violi` d`Auschwitz by Maria Àngels Anglada « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  30. Pingback: Maria Àngels Anglada: The Auschwitz Violin – El violi’ d’Auschwitz (1994) Literature and War Readalong October 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  31. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong November 30 2012 Meets German Literature Month: The Stalin Front – Die Stalinorgel by Gert Ledig « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  32. Pingback: Gert Ledig: The Stalin Front – Die Stalinorgel (1955) Literature and War Readalong Meets German Literature Month November 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  33. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong December 28 2012: Dispatches by Michael Herr « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  34. Pingback: Michael Herr: Dispatches (1977) Literature and War Readalong December 2012 « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  35. Pingback: Literature and War Readalong 2014 | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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