With Remembrance Day coming up quickly, this is a time for Canadians to reflect on the impact of war and those who endure hardship in the name of freedom. The Amnesty International Book Club has put together a short list of novels that bring their readers into the emotions, personal stories and impact of war.
It is 1919, and Niska, a Cree healer living off the land, has received word that one of the two boys she saw off to the Great War has returned. Xavier Bird, her sole living relation, is gravely wounded and addicted to morphine. As Niska slowly paddles her canoe on the three-day journey to bring Xavier home, travelling through the stark but stunning landscape of Northern Ontario, their respective stories emerge—stories of Niska’s life among her kin and of Xavier’s horrifying experiences in the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme.
Beatrice & Virgil is a novel-within–a novel that deals with the ways the Holocaust is represented. In the story, Henry, a writer, receives the manuscript of a play in a letter from a reader. Intrigued, Henry traces the letter to a taxidermist, who introduces him to the play’s protagonists, two taxidermy animals—Beatrice, a donkey and Virgil, a monkey.
Anne Michaels’ startlingly beautiful novel tells the interlocking stories of two men from different generations whose lives have been transformed by war.
A young boy, Jakob Beer, is rescued from the mud of a buried Polish city during the Second World War and taken to an island in Greece by an unlikely saviour, the scientist and humanist Athos Roussos. There, in the seclusion and tenderness of Athos’s house, they spend the last years of the Occupation in a precarious refuge made lavish with poetry and cartography, botany and art.
In the novel’s second part, Ben, a young professor and an expert in the drama of weather and biography, meets the now sixty-year-old Jakob and his ardent and glorious Michaela at the home of a mutual friend. The quiet elation Ben senses in the older man, and Ben’s own connection to the wounding legacies of the war, kindle a fascination with Jakob and his writing, disturbing the safety of his carefully ordered world.
A haunting tale of the ways in which people come together and are torn apart during the Great War. Grania loses her hearing at a young age and learns language mainly due to the efforts of her beloved grandmother, Mamo, who advocates sending Grania away to school. There she meets the love of her life, Jim. When Jim heads for the killing grounds of Europe, letters become the couple’s only means of communication. Will Jim survive the horrors of war? And how will Grania cope until his return?
This novel follows a young 19 year old, Robert Ross, who enrols in the military after the death of his beloved sister to run away from his grief. The novel follows his through his training, his journey to Europe, fighting in World War I, and the time he spends at a convalescent home all told through interviews of different people who experienced these different settings alongside him.