All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque
A young man, Bäumer, goes off to fight for his country in WWI and finds the battlefield a much different place than he was expecting. He and his fellow men quickly become disenchanted with war. They also become desensitized to violence and disconnected from civilian life. Returning home to a “normal” existence is nearly impossible for most soldiers, even today, and this book addresses that.
I found the sections where Bäumer goes home on leave to be particularly poignant. He has seen so much death and his family expects him to be the same man he was when he left. Even though he tells the story, I never felt connected to Bäumer. His voice feels cold and distant. While it certainly gets the main theme and message across, I was never emotionally invested.
One thing that really surprised me about this book is that it’s from a German soldier’s point-of-view. For some reason I just assumed it was from the point-of-view of a French or British soldier. Hearing about the hardships of war from a German soldier was incredibly powerful. It humanized the enemy and reminded me that they were just young men following orders.