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Wartime Fiction Is Hell

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It doesn’t matter how you encounter war in fiction. Either imaginary or factual, it’s horrifying. The anguish, the fear, the weapons designed to destroy as much as possible — all of it is hell on earth. But we know that responding to war through literature helps us to avoid repeating history. Off The Shelf gathered some important and beloved titles set in World War II and wanted to present them to you now, given the number of wars in today’s world. Have a peek at something you’ve not read, or revisit a title and tell a good friend about it. We’ve got to talk about war somehow….

The Naked and the Dead
by Norman Mailer

On the South Pacific island of Anopopei, American forces are tasked with driving out the Japanese so they can advance into the Philippines. This novel focuses on the experiences of one platoon, overseen by Lieutenant Hearn and General Cummings. A fascinating portrait of men who are just obeying orders, uncertain as they are about the aim behind the orders.

Empire of the Sun
by J.G. Ballard

A young British teenager is separated from his parents when the Japanese invade Shanghai, where he lives. His struggle to find his parents and to survive as a prisoner of war is crazy and quite harrowing. Trivia: did you know the movie adaptation stars a very young Christian Bale? I know, right?!

War and Remembrance
by Herman Wouk
A sequel to his previous novel, THE WINDS OF WAR, this novel continues the story of two families over the course of World War II. This novel was adapted into a popular TV mini-series back in the 1980s.

From Here To Eternity
by James Jones

A story about the lives of several men in an army unit in Hawaii in the months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Famously adapted into that magnificent film of the same name. This is a slower burn than the movie, but we know the book is always better.

The Thin Red Line
by James Jones

This is Jones' follow-up to FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, but it's not a sequel. This novel follows a platoon moving through the fighting in Guadalcanal and the horrors they encounter in the enemy and in themselves.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford

15 WWII Novels Beyond Europe’s Shores

Several months ago, I read GONE TO SOLDIERS by Marge Piercy and fell in love with its unique kaleidoscopic perspectives on the war. I have since been on a hunt for more World War II fiction that portrays the war from viewpoints outside of Europe. I have discovered many novels that show the war as it played out in Asia, America, and the Pacific. Here are just a few I most look forward to reading.

A Town Like Alice
by Nevil Shute

Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman, falls in love with a fellow prisoner of World War II in Malaya (now known as Malaysia). After she is freed, she emigrates to Australia to be with her love, where she invests her substantial fortune to generate economic prosperity in a small outback community. The goal: to turn it into "a town like Alice" (Alice Springs).

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