October 20, 2003

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

For me, like many people of my generation, WWI took place back in the mists of history. I never heard stories of the war told at family gatherings. Movies don't really deal with it much anymore. And when I studied history in college, it was the aftermath with the League of Nations and the reparations payments that were more interesting than the actual war itself. WWII, Korea, Vietnam were the wars that were real to me as a young person. The horror of Auschwitz and the body bag counts on the nightly news were the realities of war. Later, it was terms like "surgical strikes" and "collateral damage."

Then, when my kids were small and I was a broke, stay home mommy shopping at Goodwill for clothes and books and everything else I could find cheap, I picked up a book called "Testament of Youth" by a woman named Vera Brittain. It cost a dime. I took it home and found a whole generation I had completely missed. It's a book about a nurse's experience before, during and after the war and it wasnít a pretty book to read. It made a huge impression.

Now I have read this book. It's well known and on the bookshelves at all the bookstores. It doesn't take long; it's short and the writing is easy and accessible. That is fortunate because the words tell a story more horrific than anything I have read in a long, long time. It hit me in the gut and made me sick. It made me cry and it made me angry. I could probably do a nifty analysis on the use of Nature as a backdrop to the works of Man or the development of the character but realistically, I donít want to. I donít even want to do a plot synopsis. I want to give this book to everyone I know and say "Read it. Read it now and think about it." I want to give it to national leaders and clergy and farmers and New York intellectuals and say "Read it!"

Read it.

Posted by Deb English at October 20, 2003 07:31 PM