The best historical fiction books about WWI

The Books I Picked & Why

The Alice Network

By Kate Quinn

Book cover of The Alice Network

Why this book?

This book has parallel, connected storylines: an American girl, Charlie, teams up with Eve, a former British WWI spy. Charlie’s trying to find a lost cousin; Eve is out for revenge on the man who destroyed her life. The fact that they have a hot ex-convict Scotsman in tow just adds to the appeal. I love the glimpse into WWI espionage, something I haven’t seen elsewhere in fiction yet. 

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All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque, Arthur Wesley Wheen

Book cover of All Quiet on the Western Front

Why this book?

The first book I ever read about WWI, this is a classic not to be missed. It’s of particular interest because it’s from the viewpoint of a conscripted German boy (so often novels are from the Allied perspective). It really cuts deep, with a strong anti-war message, and pulls no punches in its vivid descriptions of the physical and emotional conditions of the boys who fought. 

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Open Fire

By Amber Lough

Book cover of Open Fire

Why this book?

This is a fantastic novel about a girl soldier in Russia who joins the Women’s Battalion of Death, during the time that the Russian Revolution was beginning and morale among male soldiers was flagging. The Russian army thought the men’s morale might be boosted if girls came along and gave the men a little competition. I love the camaraderie and amazing determination of these women to do their bit for their country.

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The Skylarks' War

By Hilary McKay, Rebecca Green

Book cover of The Skylarks' War

Why this book?

My absolute favourite WWI novel, this is the story of several English young people who come of age during the Great War. It gives glimpses into home front life as well as life at the front. As usual, McKay’s characters are vibrant, maddening, loveable, ridiculous--sometimes all at once. The prose is elegant, poetic, subtle, will smack you in the feels, and stay in your mind long after.

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The Summer Before the War

By Helen Simonson

Book cover of The Summer Before the War

Why this book?

This book is leisurely, reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell’s works (such as North and South or Wives and Daughters); it reads and feels like a warm summer day. It takes place in a small English town in the tense and uncertain months leading up to the war and a little beyond, featuring family dramas, romantic entanglements, spunky schoolteachers, Belgian refugees, underage recruits, life, and death, and love.

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