22 February 2013

Audiobook Friday #13: Review: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Original Publication: 1928

Pages: 296 (paperback)

Genre/s: War





Audio Version
Published: 5 August 2010 by Hachette Audio UK
Narrated By: Tom Lawrence
Length: 7 hours, 9 minutes

Source: Own Library

Synopsis

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . . if only he can come out of the war alive.


My Thoughts

All Quiet on the Western Front is a classic that I've always wanted to read.  I've read a lot of World War II books, but very few from World War I, and this one had the added interest of being written from the German perspective.  Right from the very beginning, I could see why it is a classic and features prominently on all those 'top books' lists, including 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  

In the beginning, it appears to be just another war narrative - young men plucked straight from school and sent to fight a war that seems like a great adventure - travel and comradeship, something that they never dreamed of as children.  But as the story progresses, through trench warfare, front-line hospitals and home visits that further distance themselves from 'normal' lives, All Quiet On the Western Front becomes gradually more haunting and thought-provoking.

Paul is an average German boy when he enlists to fight in the Great War - having grown up in an average family, he finds himself with his schoolmates, fighting a war that he doesn't particularly believe in.  And although there are funny stories and light-hearted moments, as I listened I became more and more sympathetic as he witnesses some of the greatest horrors World War One had to offer - from long painful deaths to gas attacks and the effect on the German people as a whole.

As the realisation of the effects of war distances him from his family and the generations of people who have never fought in bloody, hand-to-hand combat in trenches, he becomes more and more introspective, and begins to question everything about the war - the futility, the terrible waste of young lives and deals with the death of friends, comrades and strangers.

Although I hate to dictate what people should read, I can honestly say that I think this is a book that everyone should read - it's haunting, disturbing and ultimately reinforces the brutality of war without using over-the-top violence, it is simply the story of one young man who realises just how wasteful and futile war is.

The Audio Version

I really enjoyed the audio version - the narration is very well done (although the English accent is slightly at odds with what I expected), and although I'm not overly fond of classics on audio, this version really adds an extra angle to the story that I very much appreciated.

5 comments:

  1. I picked this off a list of books to read for a high school book report project (years & years ago ha). I'm really ashamed to admit that didn't get past the first few pages back then, but I should try & pick it back up! I just previewed some of it on Amazon ("look inside") & it sounds like a great read! Glad you liked it <3!

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  2. I really do need to read some more classics and this could be a good place to start. It sounds like it's a really well rounded story and that the progression of where it goes is what really gets to you. Happy to see that you enjoyed it so much!

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  3. That audio cover is so pretty.

    Also, I was so shocked when I read the synopsis. The MC is 20, which at the time was like an adult to me, but now I'm like POOR YOUNG KID SENT OFF TO WAR. I feel like I need to reread this, because it will obviously be a different experience entirely.

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  4. I read this in High School and though I don't remember any of the details I do remeber how it left me feeling... Great review!

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  5. I can't say World War I is something I've come upon in books before you're rght it's mostly WW2. I'm kind of intrigued by this now I don't like historicals at all but for some reason when it's during WW2 I really enjoy them. I also really need more audiobooks in my life! I could totally listen to audiobooks while I work... omg why didn't I think of that before?? You may have just changed my LIFE! MY LIFE' KAT!!


    Ok umm, where do you even get audiobooks? I know they're like 30$ a pop and that's just not happening lol

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