Unfortunately I hadn't got round to reading anything suitable in time, but was inspired earlier to read Operation Heartbreak, one of my unread Persephones after reading about it on DoveGreyReader's blog - set in the Second World War it sounds like a wonderful read for tonight and maybe I'll have a review of it tomorrow if you like.
I have read a number of excellent books set in the second world war this year, predominantly published by Persephone and Virago*, and the bonus of reading titles from these publishers is that they often offer a woman's perspective into life in wartime. Until the 1990s it was very unfashionable to look at war from the female point of view, but since then there has been a proliferation of literature looking at women's experiences - at home, in the factories, and on the land. This was one of the most interesting things that I studied at university, and two anthologies of women's writings which I would recommend are Wartime Women, edited by Dorothy Sheridan which utilises Mass Observation's research during the second world war, and Hearts Undefeated, a collection published by Virago.
At this time of year, I always like to get out my little book of Poems of the Great War - I think the war poets give a great insight into the futility of the First World War. I was hugely privileged to visit the First World War battlefields in 2002 and this little book was the perfect accompanient to the travels as it helped to contextualise the endless cemetries and what is now just countryside. One of my favourite poems is one of the most famous ones, but I like it because
it reminds me why we wear poppies to remember, and also because I saw the ambulance station at Essex Farm in Belgium where the author, John Macrae, reputedly wrote the poem for the funeral of a friend.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.