All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Marque *****

This has been labeled the best anti-war novel ever written. I agree. We see the first world war (“The Big One”) through the eyes of a young German soldier.

Some have held “Johnny Got His Gun” to be the best anti-war novel; I disagree, because that novel holds out no hope. When all is lost at the beginning and never gets better, it fails to draw the reader’s emotion. Marque is singularly skilled at reaching right down into the reader’s chest and wrapping his scholarly fingers right around our heartstrings. (Don’t look for this term in a physiology text.)

AQWF, on the other hand, develops character and setting sufficient to take us there, to nearly climb inside the skin of someone going through the experience.

Is there such a thing as a war worth fighting and dying in? I think so…but very rarely so, and this novel helps us understand the need for restraint and caution.

Note to teachers: though this is outstanding literature and many students enjoy it, it requires a very strong reader in terms of ability and vocabulary.

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