29 December 2009

All Quiet on the Western Front

Paul Bäumer and his classmates were impressionable teenagers when they signed up to serve in the German army during WWI. They enter the military as idealistic young soldiers, but years of brutal trench combat hardens Paul and his comrades into disillusioned cynics. As the war drags on, Paul begins to question the war's purpose, yet he finds himself incapable of imagining himself in a world without the war which he has come to despise.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a stunning novel. This is one of the most moving novels I've ever read. Author Erich Maria Remarque served in the German military during WWI, and the remarkable amount of detail he uses to describe battle scenes and military life in general adds an exceptional layer of realism to this novel. I have never read more gut wrenching descriptions of battle - several scenes left me teary-eyed and physically ill. I also adored the characters. The sensitive, perceptive Paul is an endearing narrator and his friends, including the resourceful Kat, vindictive Tjaden, and bullheaded Muller are memorable. I always have read that All Quiet on the Western Front is a biting condemnation of war, so I expected to find a lot of blatant pacifistic philosophizing. I don't mind this in a book, (I actually enjoy it), but I do not enjoy being beaten over the head with it. I was relieved that Remarque didn't resort to such heavy-handed tactics. A lesser author would have blatantly told the reader that war was terrible; Remarque, on the other hand, shows the reader the horror of war and his book is all the more compelling because of it.

I watched the classic 1930 film adaptation of this book before I read it. I loved the movie and that's why I became interested in this book. When it comes to films vs. movies, I am usually biased in favor of whichever I encountered first. Not this time. The movie is excellent, but the book is much, much better. The movie stays with the story, for the most part, but the book has so many touching vignettes, which range from amusing to heartbreaking, that add atmosphere, humor, and character development that a film just cannot achieve. I do like the film's striking, famous end scene over the novel's more anticlimatic ending, but it's two entirely different mediums, so a comparision is a bit unfair.

All Quiet on The Western Front is an intense, powerful tale about courage and camaraderie. I highly recommend this excellent novel. I wish I would've read it sooner.


Next Time: Welllll, it depends. I want to open up the new year with that list of book links and updates to my blog that I have been promising forever. I also want to review Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, which comes highly recommended to me by my dear friend Bev. If I can get Hatchet read before Friday, I will post the review and then do a post on the book links over the weekend. If I don't get it finished in time, my post on my new blog look will be the first one of the new year and then Hatchet will follow.


  1. Great! Can't wait to read it.
    I, too, loved the movie. Did you know the movie was actually condemned and banned in several countries that were trying to prepare for war when it came out?

  2. Scott, you'll love the book - I am sure of it. Let me know how you like it after you read it.

    Yeah, that's hard to believe, knowing that it's now considered a classic film. Remarque also had to flee Germany during the Nazi period because of this book. His message didn't really meet Hitler's militarization policy!

  3. Good choice, Zella! I liked the book and the movie as well. The scene that most sticks in my mind is when Paul returns to his old school and sees it with new eyes. Hitler also served in WWI. Too bad he learned nothing.

  4. Hi, That's great that you love doing book reviews. Perhaps you would like to have a look at my book that is coming out; title: Almi A Refugee that you can view on Google. If you want to order from the publisher view it on: http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AlmiARefugee.html. Regards Tiiu Kleyn

  5. Eric, that is a powerful scene, as is the whole time he is in on leave. I have read that Hitler's animosity toward Jews and Western Europe was due to his experiences in WWI. It is a shame he didn't take away the same perspective as Remarque or so many other soldiers did.

    Tiu, Thanks! I am looking forward to reading your book. I read the description of it and am intrigued!

    Thanks to both of you for commenting! :)

  6. Sadly I can't remember enough interesting things about the book to post anything relevant, other than that I enjoyed it, more than the movie, which is great.

    But here's a post anyway!

  7. LOL No problem, James. :) It truly is an excellent book (and a good movie.)

    Thanks for commenting! :)