A selection of novels set against the background of the First World War.
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Two sisters growing up in the Scotland Road area of Liverpool join the Voluntary Aid Detachment during World War 1 and find themselves in a hellish, death-filled world that contrasts acutely with the warmth and love of working-class Liverpool.
Pat Barker - Regeneration
'Regeneration' begins 'The Regeneration Trilogy' and is followed by 'The Eye in the Door', winner of the 1993 Guardian Fiction Prize, and 'The Ghost Road', which won the 1995 Booker Prize.
Pat Barker - Toby’s Room
Toby and Elinor, brother and sister, friends and confidants, are sharers of a dark secret, carried from the summer of 1912 into the battlefields of France and wartime London in 1917.
Pat Barker - The Ghost Road
This book challenges our assumptions about relationships between the classes, doctors and patients, men and women, and men and men. It completes the author's exploration of the First World War, and is a timeless depiction of humanity in extremis.
Frank Barnard - A Time For Heroes
Guv Sutro becomes a pioneer of aviation, a fighter ace on the Western Front during the Great War and a record-breaker between the wars. At the outbreak of World War Two, Guv's son Tim is desperate to shed the burden of his father's reputation, while Tim's childhood companion, Will Kemp, is fighting heroically as a Spitfire pilot.
Sebastian Barry - A Long Long Way
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 Way charts and evokes a terrible coming of age, one too often written out of history.
John Boyne - The Absolutist
September, 1919. 20-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver some letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will during the Great War but in 1917, Will laid down his guns on the battlefield, declared himself a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor.
William Brodnick - A Whispered Name
Father Anselm is deeply dismayed by an allegation against Herbert Moore, the man who shaped his own vocation, made by a visitor to Larkwood's cemetery. In 1917, during the terrible slaughter of the Passchendaele campaign, a soldier faced a court martial for desertion. Herbert, charged with a responsibility that would change the course of his life, sat upon the panel that judged him. In coming to understand the court martial, Anselm discovers its true significance: a secret victory that transformed the young Captain Moore and shone a light upon the horror of war.
Helen Dunmore - Zennor in Darkness
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 stories. Into this turmoil come D. H Lawrence and his German wife, Frieda hoping to escape the war-fever that grips London.
Helen Dunmore - The Lie
Cornwall, 1920, early spring. A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family. Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life. Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him. He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?
Sebastian Faulks - Birdsong
Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, arrives in Amiens in northern France in 1910 to stay with the Azaire family, and falls in love with unhappily married Isabelle. But, with the world on the brink of war, the relationship falters, and Stephen volunteers to fight on the Western Front. His love for Isabelle forever engraved on his heart, he experiences the unprecedented horrors of that conflict - from which neither he nor any reader of this book can emerge unchanged.
Ford Madox Ford - Parades End
The Great War turns the world of privileged, English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens upside down. It forces him to question everything he holds dear - social order, morality, marriage and loyalty. This is a powerful story about love, betrayal and disillusionment in a time of horror and confusion by one of Britain's finest novelists. Ford Madox Ford's monumental novel came to our screens in August 2012 as a major BBC adaptation, with a screenplay by the legendary playwright Tom Stoppard and a stellar cast that included Benedict Cumberbatch.
Susan Hill - Strange Meeting
Susan Hill's classic novel tells of the power of love amidst atrocities. 'He was afraid to go to sleep. For three weeks, he had been afraid of going to sleep . . .' Young officer John Hilliard returns to his battalion in France following a period of sick leave in England. Despite having trouble adjusting to all the new faces, the stiff and reserved Hilliard forms a friendship with David Barton, an open and cheerful new recruit who has still to be bloodied in battle. As the pair approach the front line, to the proximity of death and destruction, their strange friendship deepens. But each knows that soon they will be separated.
Audrey Howard - As the Night Ends
Driven by her idealism and courage, Alex Goodwin will make any sacrifice to win votes for women. Her despairing family, unable to rescue her from yet another dangerous prison sentence, is overjoyed when Patrick O'Leary comes into her life. A hard-working young surgeon, Patrick is as idealistic as Alex and loves her with all his heart. Then they are separated - first by a quarrel, then by the terrible war which engulfs their world, and finally, after a miraculous reunion, by a tragedy that seems to make it impossible for either of them ever to love again...
Marion Husband - The Boy I Love
Set in the aftermath of World War One, war hero Paul is coming home to his lover, Adam. However, Paul's arrival is complicated when he meets the pregnant fiancé of his dead brother - from now on, Paul's choices will have repercussions on several lives as he unwittingly spins a tangled web of love and betrayal.
Sebastien Japrisot - A Very Long Engagement
One bitter night in January 1917, five French soldiers are court-martialled and sent into No-Man's Land. Days later, five corpses are given a hasty burial. After the war, the fiancée of one of the men sets out to discover what happened.
Doris Lessing - Alfred & Emily
In this extraordinary book, the new Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing explores the lives of her parents, both of them irrevocably damaged by the Great War. Her father wanted the simple life of an English farmer, but shrapnel almost killed him in the trenches, and thereafter he had to wear a wooden leg. Her mother Emily's great love was a doctor, who drowned in the Channel, and she spent the war nursing the wounded in the Royal Free Hospital.
Robert Radcliffe - Across the Blood-Red Skies
Spring 1917. Under attack both from the ground a the air, the average survival time of a WWI pilot is 18 hours. George Duckwell of the Royal Flying Corps is living on borrowed time. Having joined up to escape disgrace at home, George can only watch in horror as his comrades are shot down, maimed and killed, while somehow he survives.
Elizabeth Speller - The Return of Captain John Emmett
Following the death of his wife and baby and his experiences on the Western Front, Laurence Bartram has become something of a recluse. When a young woman he once knew persuades him to look into events that apparently led her brother, John Emmett, to kill himself, Laurence is forced to revisit the darkest parts of the war.
Mary Jane Staples - Love for a Soldier
Should she stay loyal to her country, or the man she loves? France, 1918. Sophia, the rebellious daughter of a distinguished German general, is on her way to the town of Douai to elope with the man of her dreams -- a young army officer -- against her parents' wishes. On her way, she witnesses a dramatic battle in the skies that leaves an English pilot without a plane and under the misapprehension that Sophia is on his side. She has no choice but to agree to assist him ...
Louisa Young - My Dear I Wanted To Tell You
A letter, two lovers, a terrible lie. In war, truth is only the first casualty. Moving between Ypres, London and Paris, this is a deeply affecting, moving and brilliant novel of love and war, and how they affect those left behind as well as those who fight.
Voices of War Exhibition
A major new exhibition, Voices of War, opens in The Gallery at the Library of Birmingham on 29 September 2014 as part of the 'Voices' season. The exhibition will explore the experiences of men at the Front, the war’s impact on children and families, the contribution of black and Asian soldiers from across the empire, the changing role of women on the Home Front, Birmingham’s industrial support for the war effort, and debates around patriotism and pacifism in the city. The exhibition will be complemented by a programme of talks and events, online resources, and an accompanying book.
The First World War online
Find out more about our collections with these selected online galleries including silk embroidered postcards and song cards.