Why this book?
Volunteering to join the British Army as I did and consequently serving with The Parachute Regiment, it would have been very easy as a young man to be wrapped up in the reputation, tradition, glory, and ceremony of that unit and to forget what duties you might be called upon to perform. Similar in fact to the character of Paul Baumer, the young idealistic German soldier, full of patriotism and eager to fight the foe in the trenches of WW1. The reality is horrifyingly different, as superbly described by the author from his own harrowing experiences on the Western Front. Paul quickly realises that the nationalism he has been sold is quite false. He is constantly surrounded by hunger, sickness, fear, and death, and that he and his young comrades are already either ‘old or dead.’ To make matters worse his return home on leave is emotionally destructive as nobody either understands or believes his experiences. He returns, empty to face the end.
This is I believe one of the finest books ever written on the subject of warfare. As a former serving soldier, this book reminds me of the dangers of uncontrolled nationalism and the horrors that can be unleashed if our leaders/politicians get it wrong. Be vigilant.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
The story is told by a young 'unknown soldier' in the trenches of Flanders during the First World War. Through his eyes we see all the realities of war; under fire, on patrol, waiting in the trenches, at home on leave, and in hospitals and dressing stations. Although there are vividly described incidents which remain in mind, there is no sense of adventure here, only the feeling of youth betrayed and a deceptively simple indictment of war - of any war - told for a whole generation of victims.