If you liked Rachel Barenbaum's A Bend in the Stars, and it seems most of you did, I have some other books you may like. Like Barenbaum's novel, they are stories of passionate people set against the backdrop of World War I. They are also compelling, full of incident, and have well-developed characters, particularly the female ones. With Veterans' Day almost upon us, these novels are good choices to curl up with.
If you're not familiar with A Bend in the Stars, it follows siblings Vanya and Miriam as they realize a future in Russia as Jews is untenable. Vanya is a physicist out to tweak the still-new and controversial Theory of Relativity and Miriam is one of a handful of female surgeons in the country. She is engaged to Yuri, a fellow surgeon, but as the group breaks up, Miriam is saved by the gallant Sasha and they develop feelings for each other. The science and history are well explained, and the chaos of the war's beginning is well drawn.
Ken Follett's first book in his Century trilogy, Fall of Giants, is, as one would expect, sweeping and massive. That said, he keeps things moving and finds the perfect eight lead characters to get at the heart of the major events of the day: the Russian Revolution, the ascent of the United States on the global stage, and women's suffrage, in addition to the Great War.
Anne Perry is another well-known author who tries her hand at a novel set during the War To End All Wars in No Graves as Yet. The Raveleys, husband and wife, are killed in an automobile accident the same day as Archduke Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated. It turns out to be too much of a coincidence for their adult sons, who launch an independent investigation that leads to evidence of skullduggery at the highest levels. If you like Anne Perry's mystery novels set in Victorian England, this should be right up your alley, and if you are not familiar with them, this might be a good introduction to this prolific author.
Despite class differences, Lilly has fallen for Robert and leaves her aristocratic life for that of of an ambulance driver Somewhere in France in Jennifer Robson's novel. Fate contrives for Lilly to be assigned to Robert's medical unit (he's a surgeon, after all), and the lovers have to deal with both the horrors of war and their own anxieties about their relationship's future after the war ends. While a love story, Robson never loses sight of the bigger picture.
In Daniel Mason's The Winter Soldier, privileged, inexperienced medical student Lucius is sent to a field hospital in the Carpathians where all the other doctors have fled, leaving the nurse Margarete, a Sister of the Order of Saint Catherine, his only helper. She ends up teaching him how to do surgeries and after working so closely together, the two fall in love. One day, Sister Margarete disappears, and caught up in the shifting front lines, Lucius has to wait until the war's end to search for her. No battle descriptions here, just the aftermath of traumatized soldiers and their caregivers.
Have more novels of people caught up in the Great War? Tell us in the comments.