Essential World War 2 – Fiction


Essential World War II

 

Run Silent Run Deep

Edward L. Beach

This is a story of the silent service – the submarine crews which destroyed the Japanese merchant marine. A narrative taut with drama, told with the intimacy of a confession, it deals with two strong-headed men: their loves, their jealousies, and their destinies in the lonely and desperate struggle between the hunter and the hunted. Few war novels will rival Run Silent, Run Deep in the naked realism of its action. None will surpass its rising excitement and brilliant descriptions of men in combat.

 

The Bridge Over the River Kwai

Pierre Boulle

1942: Boldly advancing through Asia, the Japanese need a train route from Burma going north. In a prison camp, British POWs are forced into labor. The bridge they build will become a symbol of service and survival to one prisoner, Colonel Nicholson, a proud perfectionist. Pitted against the warden, Colonel Saito, Nicholson will nevertheless, out of a distorted sense of duty, aid his enemy. While on the outside, as the Allies race to destroy the bridge, Nicholson must decide which will be the first casualty: his patriotism or his pride.

 

The Boat

Lothar-Gunther Buchheim

It is autumn 1941 and a German U-boat commander and his crew set out on yet another hazardous patrol in the Battle of the Atlantic. Over the coming weeks they must brave the stormy waters of the Atlantic in their mission to seek out and destroy British supply ships. But the tide is beginning to turn against the Germans in the war for the North Atlantic. Their targets now travel in convoys, fiercely guarded by Royal Navy destroyers, and when contact is finally made the hunters rapidly become the hunted.

As the U-boat is forced to hide beneath the surface of the sea a cat-and-mouse game begins, where the increasing claustrophobia of the submarine becomes an enemy just as frightening as the depth charges that explode around it. Of the 40,000 men who served on German submarines, 30,000 never returned. Written by a survivor of the U-boat fleet, The Boat is a psychological drama merciless in its intensity, and a classic novel of the Second World War.

 

All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by

the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

 

The Tin Drum

Gunter Grass

Beginning with the unforgettable words ‘Granted: I’m an inmate in a mental institution’, The Tin Drum, the narrative of thirty-year-old Oskar Matzerath, is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

On his third birthday Oskar resolves to stunt his own growth at three feet, and on the same day he receives his first tin drum. Wielding his drum and piercing scream as anarchic weapons, he draws forth memories from the past as well as judgements about the horrors, injustices, and eccentricities he observes through the long nightmare of the Nazi era. Oskar participates in the German post-war economic miracle – working variously in the black market, as an artist’s model, in a troupe of travelling musicians – yet he remains haunted by the deaths of his parents, afflicted by his responsibility for past sins.

 

Catch-22

Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is one of this century’s greatest works of American literature. First published m 1961, Joseph Heller’s profound and compelling novel has appeared on nearly every list of must read fiction. It is a classic in every sense of the word.

Catch-22 took the war novel genre to a new level, shocking us with its clever and disturbing style. Set in a World War II American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of John Yossarian, who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. Yossarian is also trying to decode the meaning of Catch-22, a mysterious regulation that proves that insane people are really the sanest, while the supposedly sensible people are the true madmen. And this novel is full of madmen — Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly m order to finish their tour; Milo Minderbinder, a dedicated entrepreneur who bombs his own airfield when the Germans offer him an extra 6 percent; Major Major Major, whose tragedy in life is that he resembles Henry Fonda; and Major — de Coverley, whose face is so forbidding no one has dared ask his name.

No novel before or since has matched Catch-22’s intensity and brilliance in depicting the brutal insanity of war. Heller satirizes military bureaucracy with bitter, stinging humor, all the while telling the darkly comic story of Yossarian, a bombardier who refuses to die.

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway

In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from ‘the good fight,’ For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan’s love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo’s last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise. “If the function of a writer is to reveal reality,” Maxwell Perkins wrote to Hemingway after reading the manuscript, “no one ever so completely performed it.” Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author’s previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.

 

From Here to Eternity

James Jones

Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941. Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler. But when he refuses to join the company’s boxing team, he gets “the treatment” that may break him or kill him. First Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he’s risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer’s wife. Both Warden and Prewitt are bound by a common bond: the Army is their heart and blood – and, possibly, their death. In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier’s life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no other the honor and savagery of men.

 

The Thin Red Line

James Jones

They are the men of C-for-Charlie company—“Mad” 1st Sgt. Eddie Welsh, Pvt. 1st Class Don Doll, Pvt. John Bell, Capt. James Stein, Cpl. Fife, and dozens more just like them—infantrymen who are about to land, grim and white-faced, on an atoll in the Pacific called Guadalcanal. This is their story, a shatteringly realistic walk into hell and back. In the days ahead, some will earn medals, others will do anything they can dream up to get evacuated before they land in a muddy grave. But they will all discover the thin red line that divides the sane from the mad—and the living from the dead—in this unforgettable portrait that captures for all time the total experience of men at war.

In August of 1942 the first American marines charged Guadalcanal, igniting a six-month battle for two thousand square miles of jungle and sand. In that gruesome stretch sixty thousand

Americans made the jump from boat to beach, and one in nine did not return. James Jones fought in that battle, and The Thin Red Line is his haunting portrait of men and war. The soldiers of C-for-Charlie Company are not cast from the heroic mold. The unit’s captain is too intelligent and sensitive for the job, his first sergeant is half mad, and the enlisted men begin the campaign gripped by cowardice. Jones’s moving portrayal of the Pacific combat experience stands among the great literature of World War II.

 

Where Eagles Dare

Alistair Maclean

Forbidding peaks, resourceful commandos, beautiful spies, nonstop action, and neck-snapping plot twists make this the classic adventure thriller–the kind of page-turner that readers actually will find impossible to put down. A team of British Special Forces commandos parachutes into the high peaks of the Austrian Alps with the mission of stealing into an invulnerable alpine castle – accessible only by aerial gondola – the headquarters of Nazi intelligence. Supposedly sent in to rescue one of their own, their real mission turns out to be a lot more complicated–and the tension climbs as team members start to die off, one by one. Written by Alistair Maclean, author of the Guns of Navarone, this is the novel that set the pace for the modern action thriller (the film version, with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, also helped), and it still packs twice the punch of most contemporary best-selling thrillers. What’s more, the cast of spooks, turncoats, and commandos who drive this story are more relevant than ever in our new era of special forces, black ops, and unpredictable alliances.

 

The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer

Hailed as one of the finest novels to come out of the Second World War, The Naked and the Dead received unprecedented critical acclaim upon its publication and has since become part of the American canon.

Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows an army platoon of foot soldiers who are fighting for the possession of the Japanese-held island of Anopopei. Composed in 1948, The Naked and the Dead is representative of the best in twentieth-century American writing.

 

Gravity’s Rainbow

Thomas Pynchon

“A screaming comes across the sky…” A few months after the Germans’ secret V-2 rocket bombs begin falling on London, British Intelligence discovers that a map of the city pinpointing the sexual conquests of one Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, U.S. Army, corresponds identically to a map showing the V-2 impact sites. The implications of this discovery will launch Slothrop on an amazing journey across war-torn Europe, fleeing an international cabal of military-industrial superpowers, in search of the mysterious Rocket 00000, through a wildly comic extravaganza that has been hailed in The New Republic as “the most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II.”

 

The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.