On 5th March World Book Night distributed 40,000 free books. I was lucky enough to meet up with
Emma Dodd and was given ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque. The book follows a young German soldier called Paul and his time fighting in World War One. This is not a book I would have picked to read myself, but that is the beauty of World Book Night, because this is one of the best novels I have ever read. It is so far from the subjects I usually write about but Remarque has taught me a lot in 200 pages.
Aside from Remarque’s writing skills, the book is very moving. History hasn’t allowed us on the “winning side” to sympathise with the “enemy”, but the truth is, as the book shows, that there was very little difference between the boys in one trench, to the boys in the opposite trench. In his own words, Remarque wasn’t picking a side, but wanted to tell the story of a lost generation. The heart-ache of the families who lost their brothers, husbands, sons, that pain was just as strong in Germany as it was in Britain, France, Italy and America. And, for those who did survive, Remarque believes those boys lost their lives too, through Paul and the other soldiers, the reader is exposed to the result of asking teenagers to fight for survival and become murderers. And he paid for expressing that opinion- the Nazis exiled him from Germany when they took power years after the book’s publication.
I will happily pass this book on to another reader. Thank you World Book Night for helping me find great book, I would have otherwise dismissed.