The best books about memories of war

Tim Pears Author Of The Redeemed: The West Country Trilogy
By Tim Pears

The Books I Picked & Why

The Fighting at Jutland

By H.W. Fawcett, G.W.W. Hooper

The Fighting at Jutland

Why this book?

My grandfather fought in the Battle of Jutland, as a young gunnery lieutenant; the hero of The Redeemed, Leo, would do likewise as a boy seaman. I needed insight into men’s experience and found it above all in this book (put together by two naval officers who’d themselves taken part.) It is composed of sixty personal accounts from men of all ranks and is edited to give a gripping chronology of what remains the largest naval battle in history.


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The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War

By Peter Englund

The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War

Why this book?

The Swedish historian stitches together diaries and letters from twenty unknown people - from a Hungarian cavalryman to a German schoolgirl, the American wife of a Polish aristocrat to an English nurse – to tell the history of the First World War as an epic tapestry, with dizzying novelistic shifts from banal human moments to a wide scope of political and military affairs. Riveting and emotional.


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The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II

By Svetlana Alexievich, Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear

The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II

Why this book?

Svetlana Alexievich is the doyenne of oral historians. The Unwomanly Face of War, her first book, is composed from years of interviews with dozens of Soviet women, a million of whom had joined the Red Army. The patriotic fervour at war’s outbreak, the filth, and degradation of its reality, the awful disappointments of its aftermath, as experienced by women, makes for unique and harrowing reading.


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Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust

By Lyn Smith

Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust

Why this book?

Lyn Smith worked at the Imperial War Museum and created this extraordinary history of the Holocaust through her own interviews as well as writings and recordings with over a hundred participants. We follow events from the persecution of Jews in the thirties, through the ghettoes and camps, the Final Solution, to the liberation of the camps and after. Every page illuminates the central event of the twentieth century with heartbreaking, precise recollections. An indispensable monument.


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Grand Quarrel: Women's Memoirs of the English Civil War

By Roger Hudson

Grand Quarrel: Women's Memoirs of the English Civil War

Why this book?

A compilation of memoirs and letters by six women from the English Civil War. Immersed in research for a novel, I was up to my ears in pamphlets and battlefields, troop movements, and religious schism; I opened The Grand Quarrel and began reading Brilliana, Lady Harley’s letters to her son at Oxford. (‘I have sent you some juice of liquorice, which you may keep to make use of, if you should have a cold.’)The past was suddenly refreshed.


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