In the trenches, one by one the boys begin to fall…
In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their chauvinistic schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. Their disenchantment begins during the brutal basic training and then, as they board the train to the front, they see the terrible injuries suffered on the front line – their first glimpse of the reality of war
Probably the most famous anti-war novel about the horrors of the Great War, this book tells the story of Paul Bäumer, a young recruit who leaves for the Western Front with a group of school friends.
Not only set at the front, the novel also focuses on the feelings of detachment that soldiers felt when returning home on leave, which was a rare event and left the soldiers feeling unsettled – wanting to return to the familiarity of the trenches, and yet knowing they were returning to certain death.
Although largely about the futility of war, and the horrific suffering of the soldiers, there are also light-hearted moments in this book.
Having read quite a few novels about WW1 for my A level, it was good to read one from the German perspective which shows that the German soldiers were just lads like our own – just ordinary men that became unwitting pawns in a bigger game.
I really enjoyed this – it’s just a pity that my dentist decided to tell me a huge spoiler when I was only on page 42!