Nov 5, 2009

Nostalgic Friday: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque

Welcome back to Nostalgic Friday! Since I love all things historical (culturally, physically, and personally) I do a post on Fridays honoring some awesome book that is a bit older. Many of them will be books I enjoyed in my teens and others will be books that I discovered as an adult that I think are relevant to YA readers. This usually get posted on Friday, but somehow Blogger decided not to do it for me. So enjoy Nostalgic Friday on Saturday.

All Quiet On the Western Front CoverAnother book I read in school, All Quiet on the Western Front has got to be one of my favorite war novels. While my preferred war setting is World War II, this book is told from the point of view of young, idealistic Paul Baumer in the trenches of World War I (The Great War). I have taken enough history classes, and done enough of my own reading, to know that World War I was a major turning point in warfare history. The technological advances of the time including poison gas, tanks, heavier artillery, and many other items provided an easier, faster way to destroy the enemy. The brutality of this left many men shell shocked or no longer capable of functioning in society. The Lost Generation was formed out of the disillusioned masses that managed to survive the war. The romantic notion of war was dead and the reality was too hard to deal with.

This was definitely the case for Paul. A youthful idealist, Paul signs up to go to war with his buddies for the German Army. They soon lose their youthful innocence as they are constantly bombarded, day in and day out, with the senseless brutality and difficult nature of war. The ideals that they were fighting for quickly turn into pragmatism as food and supplies become short. We continue to follow Paul as we experience every agonizing aspect from his viewpoint; from living on survival instinct at the front, feeling out-of-place and unable to relate at home, not to mention his inability to interact on a simple level with a woman.

This story is the story of many soldiers during the time period. The anguish and conflicting feelings are standard for the members of this despondent grouping. While this book is definitely not a light read, it is one that I have found very useful as a basis for understanding the larger magnitude of war. Paul is a likable character and his comrades are in the same boat as him. Give it a shot and take a walk in another person's boots. You might just learn something.

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