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Westerly Sun Column

World War I Comes Alive Through Literature

Yesterday was a very important anniversary — 100 years since the end of the first World War. This war was like nothing before it, with unprecedented amounts of carnage and destruction. When it was over, counting both military and civilian deaths, more than 16 million people worldwide had died. It brought about sweeping social change, as women entered the workforce when men went to fight, and continued to work to replace all of the men who never returned. The war also contributed to the spread of influenza, leading to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed more than 20 million people around the world. World War I led to the Geneva Convention agreements, which put rules in place for the treatment of prisoners of war, and are still in effect today.

We have put together a display of books and films related to World War I at the library. We included a photo of Westerly men leaving to go off to war. It is a great photo, but as I look at it I can’t help but wonder how many didn’t make it home, or suffered serious injuries.

If you’d like to read more about World War I, we have many nonfiction books, documentaries, and historical novels for you here at the library. Ernest Hemingway wrote “A Farewell to Arms” after volunteering with the ambulance service in Italy in 1918. This highly regarded novel provides a first-hand look at a soldier’s life during wartime. Pulitzer Prize-winner Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” is a nonfiction book covering the first 30 days of the war and reads like a riveting novel. “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Remarque is a critically acclaimed novel, considered by many to be the greatest war novel of all time. It is a realistic portrait of being a German soldier in the trenches. The original and gripping “The Great War and Modern Memory” by Paul Fussell was named one of the 20th century’s 100 best nonfiction books, and is a winner of the National Book Award. Fussell was a soldier who fought in World War II, and after that war conducted a literary study of the Great War.

The library has many more books, both nonfiction and novels, centered on World War I. We also have a large selection of movies, both documentaries and feature films, on the Great War. So if this momentous anniversary prompts you to want to learn more about this war that changed the world in so many ways, stop in and we will help you find something to take home!

by Nina Wright, Reference Librarian