From Homer to the present day, some of the greatest stories are about waging war and the misery it inevitably brings. A fictional account of war stays with us long after reading – feeling the experience through a character’s eyes can make the event a lot more real to us. With this in mind, here are some of our favourite fictional tales of war. Stories of courage, heroism and of the sheer horror of war, stories of those that go away and those that are left behind.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven follows the story of Mary, Tom and Alastair, three young people in England on the outbreak of WW2. By the absolutely brilliant Chris Cleave, this is both humorous and heartbreaking and a must read.
For a story of the American Civil War, it’s hard to go past Gone With the Wind. This award winning novel (do you know it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937?) evoked the burning fields and cities of the American South.
The Book Thief centres around a nine year old girl living in Germany in WW2. With Death as the narrator, we are shown the power of words, and the beauty and destruction of life in this era.
First published in 1950, A Town Like Alice tells the story of twenty year old Jean Paget, who is imprisoned in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins, and the Australian solider she meets. A modern classic.
The Kite Runner covers the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resultant decade long conflict and flight of refugees, told through the story of Amir and Hassan, and the search for redemption.
The multi award winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the story of Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, a savagely beautiful tale set on the Thai-Burma death railway in a Japanese POW camp.
One to read over several sittings, War and Peace is set in 1812 during the invasion of Russia by Napolean’s forces, with Tolstoy taking inspiration from his time served in the Crimean War.
Showing the story from both sides, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is about Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer posted to the Greek Islands in WW2, leading to love between invader and defender.
The Yellow Birds is the story not only of the Iraq war, but also of the separation between the American public and the forces fighting overseas, by an author who is both a soldier and a poet.
Discovered by the author’s daughters 52 years after it was written, Suite Francaise depicts the story of the German invasion of Paris in WW2 and the citizens who flee, the story becomes even more poignant on knowing the fate of the author.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them... One of the most famous lines in wartime poetry, The New Oxford Book of War Poetry also includes poems from the Iliad to modern warfare.
In Tomorrow When the War Began we have not only a fictional story, but a fictional war. Australia is invaded, and Ellie and friends fight back. Young adult fiction at it’s most powerful.
Gallipoli is a beautifully illustrated picture book, depicting two friends who go off to war and Gallipoli. A great book to explain big concepts to young children.
Victoria Purman’s The Land Girls is a story of three women who strike out and leave home to do their bit for the thousands of young Australian men away fighting WWII. At a time when women only ever left home to get married, it is a radical act.
Based on the true story of the Nazi massacre of a French village in 1944, The Daughter’s Tale is an unforgettable tale of love and redemption from the bestselling author of The German Girl.
What are your favourite wartime books?