Veterans Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the end of World War I. This month, Armchair Travels transports readers to Europe’s battlefields, home front, and even an alternative world to help us remember the sacrifices soldiers and civilians made. Our suggested titles include choices for adults and teens.
Fall of Giants
By Ken Follett
The first book of Ken Follett’s new Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants, opens on the eve of World War I. Focusing on a core group of families and individuals, Follett tells the story of the war years, starting with the Russian revolution, political unrest in England, and America’s isolationism. We meet two Russian brothers, a German political family, a Welsh mining family, British aristocracy, and American politicians and businessmen. Through the eyes of these characters, we visit battlefields, war rooms, and living rooms, as both soldiers and the families left behind find a way to survive while maintaining hope for the future. Fall of Giants is a sweeping saga with vivid, realistic characters.
By Michael Morpurgo
Early in World War I, the British cavalry needed horses and searched the countryside for suitable animals. Joey, a bay-red foal, was one of the horses taken to the battlefields of France. This story of the Great War is told from Joey’s perspective, who witnessed the battlefront from both sides. Although he is brave and bolsters the courage of the soldiers who tend him, Joey longs to be back in Devon with Albert, the boy who used to own him. This emotional novel reminds us that the love between two beings can’t be broken by distance or adversity. Although initially written as a children’s book, Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse has touched the hearts of young and old alike.
By Mark T. Mustian
Mark Mustian’s The Gendarme focuses on one of the lesser-known events of World War I: the Turkish deportation and genocide of Armenian citizens. The story is told in retrospect by 92-year-old Emment Conn, a naturalized American. An injury at the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 left Conn with partial amnesia, and although he knew he was once a soldier, the details were lost to him ever since. After a brain tumor surgery returns Conn’s memory, he is devastated by the realization that when he was a Turkish soldier he took part in the genocide. Furthermore, his dreams become haunted by the face of a beautiful Armenian woman he force-marched across the desert. Is it too late for Conn to seek redemption?
By Scott Westerfeld
On the night of his parents’ assassination, Alek Ferdinand is secreted out of the Austro-Hungarian palace by trusted allies, hoping to escape to the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, Alek is quickly caught up in one of the initial battles of the Great War and must find a way to stay alive while hiding his true identity. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is a steampunk novel that offers an alternative look at the start of World War I. Although the particulars of Alek’s world are fresh, the foundation of the novel’s Europe is utterly familiar; thus readers immediately feel at home. Although this action-packed story is beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, Leviathan is geared to teens and adults who like fantastic characters and the mechanical sphere of steampunk.
A Countess Below Stairs
By Eva Ibbotson
Young Anna, a countess, was lucky to have escaped the Russian revolution and relocate to England. Unfortunately, when resources run out, she’s forced to take a job as a housemaid for an aristocratic family. Determined to keep her background a secret, Anna relies on a book to help her learn how to be a servant. Just as she begins to settle in, World War I veteran Rupert, the heir of Westerholme, returns from the battlefield, and she finds herself attracted to him, even though he already has a fiancée. Will Rupert and Anna ever find happiness? Although Eva Ibbotson’s A Countess Below Stairs has a predictable plot, the setting and the fully realized characters make the novel a great choice for light Veterans Day reading.