Tag Archives: war

Lewycka, Marina. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

tractor tractor3d

‘Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.’

Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.

But the sisters’ campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe’s darkest history and sends them back to roots they’d much rather forget . . ..

Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0241961823

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse 5

slaughter slaughter3d

Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year 1991
ISBN-10: 0099800209

Colin Jones HYMS: We fret over individual patient care, but countenance destruction on a mass scale; who writes our histories and claims what is right and what is wrong; where is truth and where is reality? So it goes….

Brittain, V. Testament of Youth


One of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she urvived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.

Publisher: Virago
Year 2004
ISBN-10: 0860680355

Faulks, S. Birdsong

Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.

Dr Jonathan Lloyd HYMS: themes loss, grief, bereavement , one of the most moving accounts of love and war.

Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0099387913

O’Malley.E. On Another Man’s Wound

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experience
of a medical student who abandons his course to take part in the Irish war of independence.
O’Malley quickly became one of the most important leaders of the republic’s army during
the war and later fought against the new state in the civil war.

Publisher: Roberts Rinehart Publishers
Year: 2002
ISBN: 1589790049

Ondaatje, M. The English Patient

Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as the second world war ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of sheet lightning.  In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.

Author: Ondaatje,Michael
Title: The English Patient
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2004
ISBN: 0747572593

Remarque, E. All quiet on the western front

This novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran  of World War I, describes the German soldiers’ extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.

Author: Remarque, E
Title:  All quiet at the western front
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 1996
ISBN: 0099532816

Maskalyk, J. Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-torn Village

James Maskalyk set out for the contested border town of Abyei, Sudan in 2007 as Medecins Sans Frontieres’ newest medical doctor in the field. Equipped with his experience as an emergency physician in a Western hospital and his desire to understand the hardest parts of the world, Maskalyk’s days were spent treating malnourished children, fending off a measles epidemic and staying out of the soldiers’ way. Worn raw in the struggle to meet overwhelming needs with inadequate resources, he returned home six months later more affected by the experience, the people and the place than he had anticipated.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Experiences of a MSF volunteer, not always very well written but gives some insight into humanitarian work

Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 1847672744

MacCarthy, Aidan. A Doctor’s War

An RAF medical officer, Aidan served in France, survived Dunkirk, and was plunged into adventures in the Japanese-American arena comparable with those of famous heroes. Interned by the Japanese in Java, he helped prisoners with ingenuity in appalling conditions. In 1944, en route to the Japanese mainland, his ship was torpedoed. A Japanese whaling boat picked him up and he was re-interned on the mainland. In Nagasaki, his life saved by the dropping of the A-bomb, he witnessed the horror and devastation it caused. Finally, he cruised home on board the Queen

Publisher: The Collins Press
Year: 2005
ISBN-10: 1903464706

Mann. T. The magic mountain

Hans Castorp is ‘a perfectly ordinary, if engaging young man’ when he goes to visit his cousin in an exclusive sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. What should have been a three week trip turns into a seven year stay. Hans falls in love and becomes intoxicated with the ideas he hears at the clinic – ideas which will strain and crack apart in a world on the verge of the First World War.

Publisher: London, Martin Secker
Year: 1928
ISBN: 0749386428

  (spoiler alert)

Lawrence, J. Lawrence, R. When the Fighting is Over

Andy Davidson (HYMS): Robert Lawrence, shot by a sniper in the Falklands war, sustained a severe head wound and the book details how he came to terms with his injury and its effects.

Title: When the Fighting is Over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain and Its Aftermath
Author: Lawrence, J. Lawrence, R.
Publisher: 22 Books
Year: 1990
ISBN: 1862380015

Ishiguro, K. The Remains of the Day

In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past . . . A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House, of lost causes and lost love.

Jonathan Lloyd HYMS
:- themes social class, professionalism, relationships, unrequited love, ageing – beautifully written, also made into a film

Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 0571225381

Grossman, V. Life and Fate

At the centre of this epic novel, overshadowing the lives of its huge cast of Russian and German characters, looms the battle of Stalingrad. Within a world torn apart by ideological tyranny and war, Grossman’s characters must work out their destinies. Completed in 1960 but confiscated by the KGB, this sweeping panorama of Soviet Society rejected the compromises of a lifetime and earned its author denunciation and disgrace. It remained unpublished until it was smuggled into the West in 1980, where it was hailed as a masterpiece.

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Overlooked but incredible novel about the Russian experience of wartime life under Stalin. Memorable for the depiction of a doctor trying to care for her fellow victims in a ghetto and later a concentration camp. Also for the threat to independent science in totalitarian
regiemes (the main character is a theoretical physicist who falls out of favour with the state).

Publisher: Vintage Classics
ISBN-10: 0099506165

De Bernieres, L. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set in the early days of the second world war, before Benito Mussolini invaded Greece. Dr Iannis practices medicine on the island of Cephalonia, accompanied by his daughter, Pelagia, to whom he imparts much of his healing art. Even when the Italians do invade, life isn’t so bad–at first anyway. The officer in command of the Italian garrison is the cultured Captain Antonio Corelli, who responds to a Nazi greeting of “Heil Hitler” with his own “Heil Puccini”, and whose most precious possession is his mandolin. It isn’t long before Corelli and Pelagia are involved in a heated affair–despite her engagement to a young fisherman, Mandras, who has gone off to join Greek partisans. Love is complicated enough in wartime, even when the lovers are on the same side. And for Corelli and Pelagia, it becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate the minefield of allegiances, both personal and political, as all around them atrocities mount, former friends become enemies and the ugliness of war infects everyone it touches.

Author: De Bernieres, Louis
Title: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Publisher: London : Vintage
Year: 1998
ISBN: 0749397543

Hooker, R. M*A*S*H

Is it a book, is it a film, is it a long running TV series? Well it’s all three, a book about the experiences of US medics in the Korean War that was read and then watched in the context of another in Vietnam. The original book was written by Richard Hooker, the film was directed by Robert Altman and the TV series made a star of Alan Alda.

Andy Kardasz HYMS: I like the use of humour in such difficult situations the Medical staff use to cope with the awful casualties they deal with. That’s why it appeals to me.

This was the original trailer for the film M*A*S*H 

Title: M*A*S*H, 20th Century Fox, 1969.
Direction: Altman, Robert
Preminger, Ingo
Writing: Lardner, Ring
Based on the novel by Richard Hooker.

DVD copies of the film available

Heller, J. Catch 22

Set in the closing months of World War II in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never even met keep trying to kill him.

Author: Heller, Joseph
Title: Catch 22
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2005
ISBN: 0099496968

Viewer Comments:


This book is about the absurdity at the heart of “the human condition”, that you are here and then you’re gone, alive then dead. In war, when these airmen are constantly under threat of instant death and survival is a matter of luck this situation is more absurd than usual. Heller uses this craziness to comic but also very poignant effect. It seems plausible enough that heller’s funny take on war gets closer to the reality than any number of mediocre ‘serious’ books.

I read this more than 10 years ago but I still remember the wonder of Yossaarian (and me at the time) confronting the vulnerability of men, even in their prime, in this “man is matter” passage:

‘He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all’

I came across another few relevent bits on wikiquotes:

‘They couldn’t dominate Death inside the hospital, but they certainly made her. behave. They had taught her manners. They couldn’t keep death out, but while she was in she had to act like a lady. People gave up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital. There was none of that crude, ugly ostentation about dying that was so common outside the hospital. They did not blow up in mid-air like Kraft or the dead man in Yossarian’s tent, or freeze to death in the blazing summertime the way Snowden had frozen to death after spilling his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane.’

‘There were lymph glands that might do him in. There were kidneys, nerve sheaths and corpuscles. There were tumors of the brain. There was Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There were fertile red meadows of epithelial tissue to catch and coddle a cancer cell. There were diseases of the skin, diseases of the heart, blood and arteries. There were diseases of the head, diseases of the neck, diseases of the chest, diseases of the intestines, diseases of the crotch. There even were diseases of the feet. There were billions of conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and every one was a potential traitor and foe.’