Zombie, post-apocalyptic and dystopian books are like shoes - you can never have enough.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a classic that I've always wanted to read. I've read a lot of World War II books, but very few from World War I, and this one had the added interest of being written from the German perspective. Right from the very beginning, I could see why it is a classic and features prominently on all those 'top books' lists, including 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.
In the beginning, it appears to be just another war narrative - young men plucked straight from school and sent to fight a war that seems like a great adventure - travel and comradeship, something that they never dreamed of as children. But as the story progresses, through trench warfare, front-line hospitals and home visits that further distance themselves from 'normal' lives, All Quiet On the Western Front becomes gradually more haunting and thought-provoking.
Paul is an average German boy when he enlists to fight in the Great War - having grown up in an average family, he finds himself with his schoolmates, fighting a war that he doesn't particularly believe in. And although there are funny stories and light-hearted moments, as I listened I became more and more sympathetic as he witnesses some of the greatest horrors World War One had to offer - from long painful deaths to gas attacks and the effect on the German people as a whole.
As the realisation of the effects of war distances him from his family and the generations of people who have never fought in bloody, hand-to-hand combat in trenches, he becomes more and more introspective, and begins to question everything about the war - the futility, the terrible waste of young lives and deals with the death of friends, comrades and strangers.
Although I hate to dictate what people should read, I can honestly say that I think this is a book that everyone should read - it's haunting, disturbing and ultimately reinforces the brutality of war without using over-the-top violence, it is simply the story of one young man who realises just how wasteful and futile war is.
The Audio Version
I really enjoyed the audio version - the narration is very well done (although the English accent is slightly at odds with what I expected), and although I'm not overly fond of classics on audio, this version really adds an extra angle to the story that I very much appreciated.
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