We’ve just returned from our honeymoon and family vacations (nothing wrong with a month away!), and I’m excited to share some of our adventures with you. But today I’m thinking about World War I (known as the Great War by most English-speaking historians until the second war broke out), which began at the end of July, 1914.
Yesterday I finished Jacqueline Winspear’s excellent The Care and Management of Lies, about a newly-married farmer’s wife keeping the home fires alive while her husband is fighting in the trenches. She writes letters describing mouthwatering meals to encourage him to come home at the end of the war–obviously, the combination of cooking and historical fiction was right up my alley. (Also, you should go buy it and read it right now. Excellent and heart-wrenching, with a slow, devastating build.)
The world wars have always fascinated me, in both fiction and history, because of their scale: when else in modern Western memory have so many people been involved in such global conflicts? And while I admire those who trace every step of battles and military strategies, it’s the home front that really captures my interest. How much did the families left at home understand about the brutality of war? How much did war enter their everyday consciousness, and how much did they really just pay attention to daily life, like cooking dinner?
A few other novels, all YA, have explored this tension, and I recommend checking them out–they’re not as well-known as some other historical YA, but worth the read.
The Sisters of the Quantock Hills series, by Ruth Elwin Harris, explores the devastating impact World War I has on one family of four sisters and their neighbors. Here’s the catch: each book portrays the same events through a different sister’s eyes. I loved this series when I was in high school, and Harris does a great job showing how two (or four) people can interpret the same events in such wildly different ways.
Remembrance by Theresa Breslin examines the war’s impact on five Scottish teens who are swept up in the action. It has a slow start but offers a great depiction of the different effects war has on people, depending on their jobs and level of involvement.
Lastly, did you see these stunning photographs of the Tower of London? It’s marking the 100th anniversary of WWI with an installation of ceramic poppies in the dry moat below the tower. We visited the Tower of London only a few weeks ago, and now it’s breathtaking to see this moat overflowing with blood-red poppies.