The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month
When blog day falls on the designated day for remembrance, it seems fitting that my post today should be about the importance of honouring those who gave their lives while serving their countries, thereby ensuring our freedom. I am always moved by veterans' stories at both the Festival of Remembrance and the service at the Cenotaph. Those of us who didn't live through the World Wars or who are not touched personally by the wars since cannot even begin to imagine what it was like.
Wartime and sacrifice have provided much inspiration for literature over the years. Many of you will have studied the war poetry of WWI in school or university and in Wales, we commemorate a young poet called Hedd Wyn (meaning 'blessed peace'), the pseudonym of Ellis Humphrey Evans. In the 1917 Welsh National Eisteddfod, when his name was announced as the winner of the prestigious bardic chair, no one stepped forward. He had been killed in battle just six weeks earlier. As the chair was draped in black cloth, the shockwaves were obvious. "Wyn's absence that day was emblematic of a lost generation of men who would never come home."
'The Reluctant Soldier' is a video made in tribute to Hedd Wyn on the centenary of his death in 2017 and was beamed onto the 80ft tall National Library of Wales building in the week of Armistice Day.
Novels set in World War II have provided me with many, many hours of enjoyable reading and there are far too many titles to list. Therefore, I've selected a few I've read more recently and loved. They are all different, as they should be. Three tell of wartime in different countries, others have dual stories of then and now, all contain love stories against the backdrop of wartime. Taking me back in time, I experienced what life must have been like during the war, felt the characters' emotions, shared their secrets and dangers. Many of those characters stayed with me long after I'd finished reading.
Last week, I sent off novel two to my publisher. Its provisional title is now 'Her Secret Daughter' and it opens in 1943 with Joe Howells receiving the dreaded telegram. His son Brian has been killed in action at the battle of Messina in Sicily and in his grief, Joe is immediately taken back to his own time as a soldier serving in World War I.
'Transported back to the horror of the trenches, he slumped to the floor and cradled his arms around his head, cowering. He tried to shut out the noise of the shells exploding around him. He gagged on the stench of bloodied bodies, relived the pain of the gas blistering his skin under his damp uniform, tasted the burning bile in his throat and in his lungs as he tried to breathe.'
There were - and still are - many men and women like Joe who bear both physical and mental scars and whose lives are blighted by their experiences of active service. That is why for me the act of remembrance each November must and should continue.
Thank you for reading. What novels set in wartime have you enjoyed? Do you write novels set in one of the World Wars? I'd love to hear your thoughts on why the genre remains ever popular. Thank you.
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