This month, one lucky reader has the chance to win the first four titles in the new Casemate Classic War Fiction series.
Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon are household names. Their poetry is studied in classrooms across the country. But not all First World War literature was poetry. Some men used their wartime experiences to compose longer works of fiction.
One of the first such books to be published was Under Fire by French soldier Henri Barbusse, which follows a group of French volunteer soldiers through the eyes of an unarmed foot soldier. Originally published in French in 1916, his novel was criticised for its brutal portrayal of the horror of the war. Even so, it was translated into English in 1917.
Donald Gristwood’s The Somme and The Coward, printed together by Casemate, are equally keen to paint a truthful picture of war, albeit one with an embellished narrative. The former, though fictional, portrays trench life more accurately than many other accounts of the conflict. The latter explores the inner turmoil experienced by a soldier who wounds himself in order to escape it.
Similarly, W F Morris’ Bretherton is superbly detailed, but this novel is also a dramatic and mysterious thriller, set on the Western Front. Like Philip MacDonald’s best-selling Patrol, which transports readers to the Middle Eastern theatre of the First World War, it is a blood-pumping tale of suspense.
Having been out of print for several decades, all four classic titles are now available in paperback.