When you start noticing red poppies brightening people’s coats and jackets on the streets it means that November is here, and the anniversary of the Armistice Day.
The 11th of November is celebrated in many countries around the world and Bloomsbury Reader recommends below some of our thought provoking books that explore various aspects of both World Wars.
Meticulously researched and insightful, Aces High: The War in the Air over the Western Front 1914-18, is a gripping account of the realities of Air Warfare during the WWI, when flying was still a crawling discipline with very few set rules regulating pilots work and protecting their safety.
Alan Clark explores the experiences of some of the flying aces of the time – Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron), Mick Mannock, Rene Fonck, Georges Guynemer, Albert Ball – whose life expectancy was measured in days. In this fascinating historical account, Alan Clark masterfully combines his detailed research with penetrating commentary.
Everybody who was anybody, the young, the dashing, the adventurous, wanted to learn to fly. But who would teach them? Each individual (and they were not many) who knew something about flying, had his own theories about tuition. Some were sound, others criminally dangerous.
Some of the aces, men like Albert Ball or Oswald Boelcke, did indeed start as carefree personifications of their country’s youth. Their metamorphosis was a matter of weeks and months. But in others the death-wish was latent from the start. A miserable childhood, a lonely and introspective life, the handicaps of physical frailty or poor health, found release in the endless vista of the skies and the private trial of individual combat.
In And We Shall Shock Them: The British Army in the Second World War, David Fraser, British Army officer and historian combines both his interest in grand strategy and the reality of command in the field and the experience of combat for the infantry, gunners and the tankers as the British Army fought its way through the War. As Fraser explains in the preface ‘It is a story which moves from triumph to tragedy, and then upward again to triumph at the last’ and he makes his account vivid and authoritative at the same time.
The Allies’ strategy – to forestall the Germans in Norway – was not unsound; but their plans were complex and they changed them too lightly. They failed in execution. There was division of authority and miserable lack of communication. Now they had a new situation for which the previous arrangements were entirely unsuitable, and at this point Allied operational planning – and the British were leading in the Norwegian business – became deplorable.
The honesty of Victor Gregg’s voice in Rifleman: A Front-Line Life from Alamein and Dresden to the Fall of the Berlin Wall won the hearts of many readers and we were thrilled to publish in February Dresden: A Survivor Story, his personal and punchy recollection of Dresden bombing during the WWII.
Thanks to Harry the four of us were away from the glass roof and close to the wall, alive and uninjured. Not for long though. The raid had by now been in progress for the best part of thirty minutes and it must have been one of the last wave that dropped the blockbuster that landed outside of the building, blowing in the whole of the wall. All I could remember was being picked up by a giant hand which threw me over to the far corner of the building, nearly fifty feet. The next thing I knew I was being covered in brickwork and rubble, and everything went dark.
In April 1942 a young Eton alumni, Nicholas Mosley, found himself recruited as an officer despite his debilitating stammer and his father Sir Oswald Mosley’s arrest for fascist activities together with his second wife, Diana, one of the Mitford sisters. He was young, brought up in a shielded environment and unprepared for what was to come. Time at War is an honest, reflective, touching and at times amusing account of his experiences as a young officer during the war told from a perspective of a mature man who for the enduring length of his writing career was unable to explore these dark events from his youth.
War is both senseless and necessary, squalid and fulfilling, terrifying and sometimes jolly. This is like life. Humans are at home in war (though they seldom admit this). They feel they know what they have to do. It is in peace that humans for the most part feel lost: they have to find out what it is they have to do. For reassurance they find themselves dragged back to conflict and to stories of conflict. But this should be shown as unnecessary by a true story of war.
November also brings us the third installment from our Classic Crime Club, introducing more authors from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction: Melville Davisson Post – a master of the detective short story – with his best known collection Uncle Abner Master of Mysteries; Arthur J. Rees with two seemingly unsolvable ‘locked room’ mysteries, The Shrieking Pit and The Moon Rock; and, last but not least – Natalie Sumner Lincoln with the intriguing crime plots of The Moving Finger and The Cat’s Paw.
As ever, we look forward to hearing from you with any suggestions you might have for books you would like to see brought back into circulation, either as ebooks or in print. Get in touch with us with your suggestions at info at bloomsburyreader.com.