When we read books about war, they often follow the action at the heart of the conflict. While tales of battles and unexpected victories are undeniably powerful, the experiences of those who stay at home—so often overlooked—are equally as moving. Like soldiers, these people must fight to remain hopeful, to stay calm, and to live for futures that seem uncertain.
The seven war books below focus on the home front—the husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and friends who, though not on the battlefields, are still affected by war. From BBC reporters trying to boost morale to a young boy awaiting the return of his brother in the Marines, they portray the triumphs, tragedies, paranoia, and quiet joys of wartime life away from the front lines.
The Handsome Road
With some echoes of Gone With the Wind, this Civil War novel in Gwen Bristow’s Plantation Trilogy takes readers into the lives of two very different women. Where Corrie May is a preacher’s “white trash” daughter, Ann Sheramy Larne is a proper Southern belle from a wealthy family. Their paths cross once violence comes to Louisiana, and both women must wage their own wars—Corrie, for her right to a new and better life; and Ann, for the safety and survival of her plantation home. The Handsome Road is a vivid, historically rich imagining of the Civil War-era South that focuses on the experiences of women, slaves, and the white working class.
Adam has always thought his marriage with Asya was stable, until the panic of the upcoming war forces Asya into confession: Following the death of their child, she had taken a lover—their friend named Gabriel, who had recently disappeared. Distraught and with no knowledge of the man’s whereabouts, Adam becomes obsessed with finding him. Told from multiple perspectives and set against the backdrop of a landmark moment in Israeli history, Yehoshua’s award-winning novel explores the effects of war between countries, strangers, and families.
Fitzgerald offers a new perspective of the London Blitz, showing it through the BBC's male and female employees who were all forced to live under one roof. Here, a cast of eccentric characters fight their own kind of battle, clashing over office politics, falling in love, and trying to maintain morale in an increasingly hopeless Britain. Funny, ironic, and heartwarming, Human Voices is drawn from Fitzgerald's stint at the BBC during the 1940s and examines how, as the world falls apart, people often come together.
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
As Portugal braces for civil war, Lisbon native Ricardo Reis returns home after hearing his poet hero, Fernando Pessoa, has passed away. As Reis wanders through the city streets, he encounters strangers along the way—two women, and the ghost of Pessoa himself—and discovers new truths about love, art, philosophy, and destiny. A translated work by a Nobel Prize-winning author, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis is an enchanting novel of magical realism set at the dawn of the fascist regime in Europe.
Under the Apple Tree
Artie is just 11 years old when his older brother, Roy, enlists in the U.S. Marines—leaving Artie to "keep the home fires burning." As Artie learns more about the German invasion and tries to preserve the world Roy has left behind, he also grapples with his burgeoning manhood, sexuality, and sense of self. Under the Apple Tree is the tender, sometimes heartbreaking, story a boy's loss of innocence, and how the hand of war can stretch above and beyond the battlefield, towards home.
Three Weeks in October
It’s October 1973, and the Yom Kippur War has drastically changed Amalia and Daniel’s lives. While Daniel sneaks behind enemy lines in Egypt, Amalia remains in Israel, working at a burn victim hospital and witnessing the tragedies of the home front. Three Weeks in October is a poignant testament to the bonds of love, the bravery of sacrifice, and the feats we are capable of in the most dire of circumstances.
All Good Women
World War II rages an ocean away, but four young women can still feel its reverberations in America. Despite global paranoia and the precariousness of tomorrow, each one sets out to carve better futures for themselves. Wanda, a Japanese-American at an internment camp, bucks against racial prejudice. Ann, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, pursues the education denied to her. Meanwhile Teddy, who hails from a migrant family, and aspiring actress Moira come to terms with their sexual identities. All Good Women was released when World War II stories were largely about male soldiers, making it a powerful piece of war literature that not only depicts the female experience but tackles the injustices we still see today.
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