World War I Centenary: A Commemoration Through Books

WW1centenary_715x195This week on The Book Binder’s Daughter, I am commemorating the centenary of World War I through a series of reviews of historical fiction set during The Great War.  There are a lot of fantastic books coming out this year that bring to the life the hardships, tragedies and sacrifices that many nations suffered during the war.  I have chosen 3 of these books to review this week: Fallen by Lia Mills, The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan and This is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods.

For more information on the history of this war and commemorative events visit:

The United States World War I Centennial Commission

The World War I Historical Association


FallenFirst up is the novel Fallen by Lia Mills.  This World War I historical fiction takes place in Dublin and centers around the Crilly family whose oldest son Liam has volunteered to join the army and fight in the war.  The member of his family who is most devastated by his decision to go to the front is his twin sister Katie.

The perspective of this book is unique as it centers around Dublin and the Irish views of the war.  At the time, the Irish were trying to gain independence as a republic, so many men like Liam joined the army in an attempt to prove that Ireland was worthy of its own seat at the peace talks at the end of the war.  This novel served to remind me of the scope of the war and just how many countries were involved in the fighting.

While the Irish army is heavily involved in the war, its citizens are also dealing with the Easter Rebellion in which Irish Republicans stage an armed rebellion in the streets of Dublin to end British rule.  The characters in the book learn all too well the horrors of war as fighting, looting and blood shed are brought to their very streets.

Lia Mills brings to life the suffering that the soldiers face in the aftermath of war through the character of Hubie, a wounded veteran.  As Katie Crilly is trying to decide what to do with her life in the year after her twin brother goes to war, she is introduced to Hubie.  They seem to find comfort in each other’s suffering and he repeatedly asks her what she wants in her life now that she is no longer defined by her brother.

I love it when a novel has a clever title whose meaning and significance are revealed throughout the story.  Katie and her family read the papers everyday and see lists of soldiers who have “fallen” in battle.  The euphemism for death disturbs her and she feels that it is too light a word to use for what has happened to her brother and other men like him.  Throughout the novel “fallen” also comes to have a very different meaning for Katie.

My litmus test for a successful historical fiction is that it makes me want to further research the time period.  As I was reading Fallen, I kept looking at World War I websites for photos, stories and descriptions of this time period.  So according to my test, Fallen is a resounding success.

What World War I books, fiction or non-fiction, have you read?  Let me know in the comments!




Filed under Historical Fiction, Literature/Fiction, World War I

13 responses to “World War I Centenary: A Commemoration Through Books

  1. Janey

    Pat Barker’s amazing Regeneration Trilogy is a must read for anyone who loves literature. I’ve also been trying to pick up The Man Without Qualities (Robert Musil) for a while but I keep being distracted by other books…


  2. Janey

    Were your parents also classics professors, Magistra?


  3. Janey

    Oops, I should also mention The Beauty and the Sorrow, by Peter Englund, which tells the experience of WWI from the perspective of a bunch of individuals on whom he has performed extensive research, and Richard Powers’ Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, which is one of my favorite books of all time — one of the several intertwined stories is during World War I.


    • Are you on Goodreads by any chance? I would love to see what else is on your “shelf.”


      • Janey

        I just started on GoodReads quite recently. I was on LibraryThing for a long time and kind of petered out on it a couple of years ago, but it may be more representative of my tastes.

        I realized, by the way, that I knew perfectly well that your father was a bookbinder. Did you choose the name Magistra as an adult, or was it a happy coincidence (or is it a nom de blog)?


  4. Thanks again for the suggestions, they sound fantastic. My dad was a Book Binder (thus my blog name) and my mom has a business degree. They are very supportive but I am sure wondered a couple of times about my choice of studying Classics. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, I really appreciate the support!


  5. I am on LibraryThing too. I will look at your books. I started using Magistra as my Twitter handle and my students call me that so I used it as my WordPress profile as well.


    • Janey

      Perfect! Have you read A Secret History, by Donna Tartt? If not, drop everything and read it RIGHT NOW. I’m serious. I’m not going to tell you why because you’ve probably already read it, but I will give you reasons if you ask. 🙂


  6. No I haven’t read it! Thanks so much for the recommendation I will get it now. Your support means a lot to me. I really try to read fairly serious literature/fiction and hope that others enjoy what I recommend. Stoner is one of the best books I have ever read. Let me know what you think about. I am going to review a book by that same author in the next couple of weeks. I love the writing style.


    • Janey

      The main characters in The Secret History are classics majors. It’s also just a wonderful remarkable book, and if you read or are tempted to read The Goldfinch, I won’t tell you not to, but The Secret History is her best work to date.

      I will definitely keep reading your blog. This is terrific.


  7. I just put the book on my “to read” shelf on Goodreads. Thanks again for the recommendation!


  8. yodcha

    Among my favorite W W I books are All Quiet on the Western Front, the experiences of a German private and Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy Parade’s End


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