Novels of the Great War
This year, we celebrate the centennial of the beginning of World War One. At its conclusion in 1918, contemporaries described it as the “war to end all wars.” The killing and destruction took place on an unprecedented scale, resulting in 10 million military and 7 million civilian deaths. This grim history can be found in several recently published novels, from which we‘ll be selecting quotes from now until the end of November.
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‘We’re alive, and he’s not. We can’t get away from that.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I just do.’
‘It wasn’t like I said in the letter.’
I feel the deep, caught breath in her.
‘I know. It’s what they tell people, isn’t it, to make them feel better? Everyone had a letter like that one we had. You can tell me the truth if you want.’
‘I was trying to get help for him.’
Her hands grip into me. I don’t think she knows how hard. ‘I know you were.’
‘But maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I only told myself that was what I was doing. I ought to have stayed
There, it’s said. The words don’t explode, they fall into silence like any other words. I should have stayed with you. You know that, just as much as I do. That’s why you keep coming back. You can’t find peace, any more than I can. We ought to have been together. I’d have been gone, like you, inside a second. With you. I’ve thought about it so much: how can a man be there, entire, one second, and the next there is nothing of him? It ought not to be possible. Even if you’ve seen it you can’t believe it. It’s the filthiest conjuring trick you can think of.
Helen Dunmore, The Lie. 2014, pp. 272-273