Novels of the Great War continued
This month we remember World War I, which took place one hundred years ago. Here are extracts from several more recent novels of the Great War:
……Hawkes would march into the eye of the storm once more, taking over the third-line trench, then the second line, and then, finally, the front line – until there was another big show, then those trenches and supply lines would be overwhelmed with stretcher bearers pushing their way through to bring back the wounded before they died, while men alive and adrenaline-riddled would be shoving past to get to the front, their sergeants shouting them onto the fire step and over the parapet into no-man’s-land. No-man’s-land because no man should ever set foot in such a place, and no man could cross it unscathed. As far as Hawkes was concerned, it killed your soul even if your body was intact. He turned to the notebook on the desk in front of him, and began to write.
Jacqueline Winspear, The Care and management of lies, 2014, pp. 214-215.
It was still dark when Marian was jolted awake by a deafening cannonade of artillery. Her bunkmates were already up, pulling skirts on over flannel petticoats, grabbing up the wrong boots in the blackness. They stumbled to the lodge where they found the others, the air thick with fear. Small groups of women huddled together, wincing at every impact. The screeching of shells coalesced into an impenetrable fortress of noise. The usual concussions from the front that Marian had grown accustomed to these last three months now seemed, in comparison, nothing more than toy firecrackers.
Laurie Loewenstein, Unmentionables, 2014, p. 227.
He stared at the cold hearth for a time, struggling to collect his thoughts. “She came more frequently. I was afraid she pitied me and sought my company as an act of charity. A good deed for the wounded hero. It began to rankle. Then she broached the subject of my coming here to finish healing. The doctors – overawed by her, in my view – tried to persuade me to accept. It was clear I wouldn’t be going back to France before the fighting was over. They were probably just as happy to give my bed to someone else. I refused. They asked if I had anywhere else to go, and I told them I did not. Finally they suggested a trial period of a month or two, and to stop them from badgering me, I agreed.”
He shifted his leg again, then glanced toward the closed door. “And they were right, the peace and quiet helped. I could sleep at night. I began to read a little, and some of the dizziness was fading. There were still gaps in my memory, still some confusion, but on the whole I could see the doctors had been right. I hadn’t been here three weeks when I overheard a conversation between two of the maids. They were saying that I was Barbara’s fiancé, here to recover before the wedding, and they were debating whether they would take on a man in my condition. I grant you, I was taking medicines for my head and I wasn’t always the brightest penny in the purse, but it had never occurred to me that I was anything more than a good deed to Barbara. When I broached the subject, she told me she hoped that more might come of our friendship, given time. But I was looking straight at her when she said this, and there was nothing in her face or in her eyes that gave me to believe she’d fallen in love with me. Soon after that Mrs. Neville made it clear that I was to be the reason Barbara wasn’t going to marry anyone else. The damaged suitor she couldn’t honorably turn her back on.”