Some Desperate Glory: 9 Novels Reveal The Loves, Loses, and Lives of WWI

Every war is unique and the stories that come out of every war are unique in the way they deal with the issues of their time. As destructive as WWI was it was the inspiration for some brilliant fiction, poetry, and art. Each of these novels tells a version of the battles fought during WWI by women and their men as they watched the world crumble senselessly around them.

1A Very Long Engagement
by Sébastien Japrisot

Set during and after the War, this is the story of a young woman's search for her fiancé, whom she believes might still be alive despite having officially been reported as "killed in the line of duty." Unable to walk since childhood, fearless Mathilde Donnay is undeterred in her quest as she scours the country for information about five wounded French soldiers who were brutally abandoned by their own troops. At once a mystery, a love story, and an extraordinary portrait of life in France before and after the War.

2In Pale Battalions
by Robert Goddard

3In Pale Battalions
by Robert Goddard

In the best tradition of British storytelling, here murder, deceit, family honor, and intrigue are intricately woven into a compelling drama of decadent British aristocracy set during World War I. Leonora Galloway reveals the mysteries of her twisted upbringing to her daughter while they are visiting the battlefield monuments of WWI. You can not put it down.

4Parade’s End
by Ford Maddox Ford

Widely considered one of the best novels of the twentieth century Parade's End explores the world of the English ruling class as it descends into the chaos of the first World War. Christopher Tietjens an officer from a wealthy family is torn between duty to his unfaithful socialite wife, Sylvia, and the possibility of happiness offered by his suffragette mistress, Valentine. Heartbreaking, terrifying and beautiful.

5A Soldier of the Great War
by Mark Helprin

No book description can begin to explain the sweep, the sadness, the beauty and thrill of this story. The young son of a prosperous Roman lawyer, whose idyllic life of privilege is curtailed by the Great War tells the story - from the vantage point of old age - of his life, his loves, his escape from the madness of war. Once you pick it up you can't put it down and once you pick it up you will need to talk about it with everyone you know.

6Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War
by Sebastian Faulks

This intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. A young Englishman, Stephen Wraysford, falls into a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire that keeps him in France. When the war begins he joins up and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land, Sebastian Faulks creates a world with his beautiful writing that is tragic, beautiful and unforgettable.

7Generals Die in Bed
by Charles Yale Harrison

All war is hell -- but for troops serving in World War I, it was the bloodiest trench warfare ever known. This novel, based on the author's own experiences of combat, is a first-person story of a young man who is catapulted from eager new recruit to walking wounded on the Western Front. His descriptions of the horrors of the front caused major controversy when this was published.

8Regeneration
by Pat Barker

The Booker Prize-winning first book in the brilliant trilogy that examines and skewers the madness of the war by telling as fiction the true story of poet and officer Siegfried Sassoon, who upon declaring he would not fight was sent to a mental hospital for "shell-shocked" soldiers where he was treated by noted psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers. Sassoon's complete sanity disturbs Dr. Rivers to such a point that he questions his own role in "curing" his patients only to send them back to the slaughter of the war. Read the first book and you will have to read the rest.

9The Return of the Soldier
by Rebecca West

The story of three women battling over the past, the future, and the very soul of a shell-shocked soldier as the world collapses around them is completely mesmerizing, and the women's battle is as life and death as anything being fought in Ypres.

10My Dear I Wanted To Tell You
by Louis Young

Don't let the jacket fool you, this is a brilliant WWI story. Two couples, one perfect for each other, one with too many hurdles to overcome are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war. Young’s moving novel of class struggles, star-crossed romance, and the grim reality of the battlefield is a stunning exploration of the devastating consequences, physical and spiritual, of a world enmeshed in Total War. You will read this and immediately want to share it with someone.