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Adult fiction: War

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Silent Army

Author: Chin Kee Onn

Publisher: Corgi (1952)

Why won't they kill me? Having beaten me until I was half dead, why didn't they allow me to bleed to death? While I was, I unconscious they could have bashed out my brains or kicked me to death. Why didn't they? Why am I alive? I can see their plan. If they kill me| I would be useless to them; but if they keep me alive and torture me they might get something out of me. They will put me through the cycles of pain until I squeal. But there's one way I can beat them - finish off the job that they started.

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Slaughterhouse 5

Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Publisher: Vintage Books (2000)

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 firebombing 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.

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Suite Francaise

Author: Irène Némirovsky

Publisher: Vintage (2015)

Set during the year that France fell to the Nazis, Suite Française falls into two parts. The first is a brilliant depiction of a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion; the second follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation. Suite Française is a novel that teems with wonderful characters struggling with the new regime. However, amidst the mess of defeat, and all the hypocrisy and compromise, there is hope. True nobility and love exist, but often in surprising places.

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Tank Attack

Author: J Eldridge

Publisher: Puffin (1999)

Based on real-life war events, this book tells the story of the desert campaign in Africa, culminating in the turning point of El Alamein, from the perspective of a young soldier.

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The Adventures Of Gerard

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Publisher:

Famous for his literary creation Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle brought other characters to notably forceful life upon the page, including that brilliant battler well-hated by the English of Wellington's Army -- the Brigadier Gerard! I have seen a great many cities, my friends. I would not dare to tell you how many I have entered as a conqueror, with eight hundred of my little fighting devils clanking and jingling behind me! So begin the adventures of a band of French Hussars during "that inconceivable Napoleonic past when France, like an angel of wrath, rose up, splendid and terrible, before a cowering continent."

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The Caine Mutiny

Author: Herman Wouk

Publisher: Fontana Books (1976)

When Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg is given the captaincy of the destroyer-minesweeper USS Caine, Ensign Willie Keith believes that the tough Naval Academy graduate will bring much needed discipline to the Caine's rough crew. But Queeg soon reveals himself to be a cowardly, paranoid man. When his actions begin to endanger not just the crew but the war effort itself, Keith finds himself faced with a terrible choice: obey Queeg, and risk the lives of his shipmates and allies - or mutiny.

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The Chequer Board

Author: Nevil Shute

Publisher: Pan (1975)

By modern standards this book is both racist and sexist, but the setting is in immediate post-war England and reflects many of the attitudes prevalent then. It opens with Mr Turner seeing a consultant because of giddy spells. The reasons are traced back to an injury sustained in a plane crash whilst Turner was being brought back to the UK to be court marshalled. The prognosis of his condition is poor and he has little time to live. Turner decides to spend his remaining life searching for three other patients with whom he shared his hospital ward. One of the patients was the pilot of the plane. Another was a young squaddie, who was awaiting court marshall for murder. The third patient was a black American soldier who was recovering from a botched suicide attempt and facing the prospect of a court marshall for rape. Shute with masterly form weaves his plot. He shows the weaker side of mankind but as in other books he shows that goodness is far stronger. We are led on a journey to Burma and also into Cornwall. During the journey we see the relics of the British Empire and gain an insight into Buddhism. Because of the time this book was written we are also shown the post-war austerity of Britain and the social class structure within the country. This is a quaint old-fashioned book. It is a good read but definitely not politically correct for the twenty-first century.

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The English Patient

Author: Michael Ondtaaje

Publisher: Vintage Books (1993)

With unsettling beauty and intelligence, The English Patient traces the intersection of four damaged lives at the end of World War II. The nurse Hana, exhausted by death, obsessively tends to her last surviving patient. Caravaggio, the thief, tries to reimagine who he is, now that his hands are maimed. The Indian sapper Kip searches for bombs in a landscape where nothing is safe but himself. And at the center lies the English patient, nameless and hideously burned, a man whose memories suffering, rescue, and betrayal illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

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The First Casualty

Author: Ben Elton

Publisher: Black Swan (2006)

Flanders, June 1917: a British officer and celebrated poet, is shot dead, killed not by German fire, but while recuperating from shell shock well behind the lines. A young English soldier is arrested and, although he protests his innocence, charged with his murder. Douglas Kingsley is a conscientious objector, previously a detective with the London police, now imprisoned for his beliefs. He is released and sent to France in order to secure a conviction. Forced to conduct his investigations amidst the hell of The Third Battle of Ypres, Kingsley soon discovers that both the evidence and the witnesses he needs are quite literally disappearing into the mud that surrounds him. Ben Elton's tenth novel is a gut-wrenching historical drama which explores some fundamental questions. What is murder? What is justice in the face of unimaginable daily slaughter? And where is the honour in saving a man from the gallows if he is only to be returned to die in a suicidal battle? As the gap between legally-sanctioned and illegal murder becomes evermore blurred, Kingsley quickly learns that the first casualty when war comes is truth.

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The Foreign Correspondent

Author: Alan Furst

Publisher: Phoenix (2007)

In Paris, on a winter night in 1938, a murder/suicide at a discreet lovers’ hotel is no romantic tragedy – it is the work of the OVRA, Mussolini’s fascist secret police and is meant to eliminate the editor of Liberazione, a clandestine émigré newspaper. Carlo Weisz, a foreign correspondent with the Reuters bureau, becomes the new editor. Weisz is, at the moment of the murder, in Spain, reporting on the last campaign of the Spanish Civil War. But as soon as he returns to Paris, he is pursued by the French Sûreté, by agents of OVRA, and by officers of the British Secret Intelligence Service. In the desperate politics of a Europe on the edge of war, a foreign correspondent is a pawn – worth surveillance, or blackmail or murder. The Foreign Correspondent is the story of Carlo Weisz and a handful of anti-fascists – the army officer known as Colonel Ferrara, who fights for a lost cause in Spain, Arturo Salamone, the shrewd leader of a resistance group in Paris, and the woman who becomes the love of his Weisz's life, herself involved in a doomed resistance underground in Berlin, at the heart of Hitler's Nazi empire.

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