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Comments

Katrina

Thanks for this. I've read quite a few by Susan Hill over the years but not this one. I hadn't realised she'd written one about WW1 which I've been interested in since studying it at school.
We visited some battlefields and cemeteries in France a few years ago, very moving. Luckily my grandad survived the whole 4 years.

Caroline

All Quiet on the Western Front is very hard to read probably the hardest I have come across so far and THE novel on WWI although I love Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy. I had to stop comparing Strange Meeting to Remarque as nothing can equal it. The feel is different, there is no denying, Remarque knows what he writes about. Since I grew up with a veteran father I know what first hand accounts sound like. Susan Hill does a great job but I think what she really excels at is the part of the friendship. Very, very touching. What I like about All Quiet is that it shows how much also the German soldiers were just victims and slaughtered senselessly. The end is very depressing. You are right, the end of Strange Meeting is quite optimistic. I'm looking forward to How Many Miles to Babylon.

Danielle

Katrina--I had only read one of her ghost stories previously to this one, so it was quite different. I think this is the only book she wrote set during this era and I thought it was really well done. Someday I would love to visit the battlefields--I know there are still trenches that are there to see. Amazing that your grandfather survived the entire war--I wonder how many men served for the whole time and made it out just fine.
Caroline--I think that is why I have put it off for so long. It would be perfect to read now, though I have only pulled it from my shelves and not yet started reading. I really must read Pat Barker's books--I have the first two on hand. It would be interesting to be able to talk to someone who has actually gone through some of these things--I read the comments on your post where you talk about your dad's experiences--is that where your interest comes from? Anyway, I'm really glad I read the Hill book--I thought it really well done and am looking forward to reading the Remarque and also discussing the Johnston book!

iliana

I just read about this book on Anna's blog today. I'd never heard of this Hill book and doesn't it sound quite different from her other books. The story sounds compelling although I'm sure it's a hard read. war fiction is important but so awfully sad.

Jeane

I found this book by chance once in a used shop and have treasured my copy ever since. It's one of my favorite war stories. I never read any other Susan Hill books, but I'd like to- what would you recomnmend?

Caroline

Yes, that's where it comes from. He was sent to Algeria when he was 18 and stayed for three years after having seen his best friend killed. And he lived through the German occupation when they entered Paris although he was very little. I guess it is my way of trying to come to terms as it overshadowed my chlidhood. He suffered from post traumatic stress all his life.

Jan Smith

I try to begin each year with a "classic", and a couple of years ago, it was "All Quiet on the Western Front". While I really loved The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker, this novel brought home the German experience. Very little of it has slipped my mind; it's haunting. I will certainly be looking for the Susan Hill novel. World War I, and how it changed the world ever after, in so many respects, makes for very interesting reading.

Danielle

Iliana--I am only familiar with her ghost stories, so this was indeed very interesting. Now I need to see what other books she's written--I do have a couple of her Simon Sereiller mysteries, too. I think this is the only book she wrote with a WWI setting. Yes, war fiction does seem to always end on a sad note, so I was pleased that this had a note of optimism at the end.
Jeane--She did do a great job with this story, I agree. It's early in the year but I have a feeling I will easily count it as one of my favorites. I have read her The Woman in Black twice--it's short and very creepy! I also want to read her mysteries, which I've heard good things about.
Caroline--Even though he was a child he must have vivid memories from living in occupied Paris. Has he told you stories of what it was like in Algeria, though it seems sometimes soldiers prefer not to talk about those memories once they have lived passed them. I don't know much about the French in Algeria--it seems there have been some good movies made? My library has most of the Criterion Collection films and it seems I remember some films coming in about the subject.
Jan--I've always meant to read All Quiet on the Western Front, but I don't tend to pick up war books on impulse--will have to read it now. I have heard good things about the Pat Barker trilogy, but I think books written by those who have lived the events always seem to have a particular poignancy.

litlove

I have a tendency to feel that Susan Hill is a tad sadistic towards her readers, as she often leaves them floundering in very negative territory with few reassurances, so I often view her books with a little mistrust! But if you loved this, Danielle, then I am certain it is a beautifully written and deeply moving read. I'll certainly bear it in mind if I have a WW1 reading phase.

catharina

I'm slowly becoming a real Susan Hill fan and will definitely try to find Strange Meeting. My brother is an expert on WWI and author of a -recently published- book about a WWI sea-massacre on the Dutch coast(three British warships sunk by a German UBoat and 1400 young men drowned). He has offered to take us to visit the battlefields as soon as I feel up to that.
And All Quiet is a must read but a very painful story.

Stefanie

Nice post about a book that sounds really interesting. I am curious about All Quiet on the Western Front though I look forward to your reading of it.

Danielle

Litlove--I wonder which books by Hill you've read? This is only my second book by her, so I've not had much experience with her work and your comment makes me curious. I think the nature of the story makes it heavy, but I thought she didn't burden the reader too much (any more than any other war story), though this is an early novel so her style certainly may have changed over time!
Catharine--I'm also curious about her other books, but I think this is the only one set during the WWI era. How cool your brother is an author and that WWI is his area of expertise. I wonder if he has any good nonfiction suggestions for someone who is interested in the period, but would want something more general to start out? You'll have to tell me if you get to see WWI battlefields--when I traveled to Europe when I was younger it was not something I ever thought of doing, but of course now I have an interest. I have The Remarque sitting next to my bed...not sure when I will start it. I do want to read it, though.
Stefanie--It is certainly different than the ghost story we read last year for the Slaves! I will certainly post on the Remarque when I get to it!

Caroline

As a matter of fact he did speak a bout it. Much too explicitly by the way. Intimate enemies is very good. What is horrible about the war in Algeria and what you will have to face should you watch anything is the extensive use of torture on both sides. (Just a word of caution.)

Liz F

I have read a lot of Susan Hill@s books and the earlier novels and short stories are quite different from the ghost stories and Serrailler novels. Haven't read this one though so I will have to put it on the list although since I am reading from my TBR pile at the moment (it's Feb 1st and I have yet to buy a book in 2011 which is something of a record for me!) I could take a while to get round to it!
I did read the Remarque when I was at school but after all this time I only have a vague recollection of it however the books I felt gave me a vivid picture of life in the trenches were by John Masters who wrote a trilogy following a British family through the war years. The first one is called Now God Be Thanked and the others are Heart of War and By The Green of the Spring. Masters was a professional soldier in the British Army and well known for writing authoritative books about India where he spent a lot of times although being born in 1914 he did not have personal experience of WW1.
I'm not sure if they are in print anymore, but they are well worth reading.

Simon T

Serendipity - I bought this last Friday!

Dorothy W.

From what I know about WWI, your description of its horror is exactly right. Yes, all wars are horrible, but that one seems particularly nasty. I haven't read many -- or any? -- WWI novels, unless you count novels that are reactions to the war. Oh, I've read Farewell to Arms, which is about the war, so maybe one or two. This one sounds good!

Danielle

Caroline--I will have to read up a bit about it--and I wonder if that is the Criterion Collection movie? I remember looking at one that seemed to be about Algeria when it came in. Being in a war must surely be something that vividly sticks with a person! I really can't imagine!
Liz--Good for you for sticking to your TBR piles! I've been so bad this year, but mostly it has been thanks to gift cards, so I am still doing well on paying off the credit card. I hadn't really thought of reading Susan Hill's works--other than her ghost stories and trying the mysteries, but I really liked Strange Meeting. I've heard varying things about her other novels. The Masters books are indeed out of print, but I love the sound of them so will be looking for used copies. My library has several of his books, but none from this trilogy.
Simon--Good choice. I hope you like it--I thought it really well done.
Dorothy--I've mostly only read historical novels, which I always read with a grain of salt--but not too many classics or memoir-type books, but now I am really interested. I have the Hemingway and have been meaning to read some of his work, so I will likely start there. I really liked this Hill book and the book I read last year by Jennifer Johnston.

Emily

Strange Meeting is an amazing book !!

I am writing my ALevel English coursework on it (or supposed to be) right now, and whilst looking for critics etc for context marks, I came across this. As a matter of opinion, do you think that Hill had a gay agenda whilst writing this?

What other books do you recommend by her? (Or anyone, I'm a very slow reader, and not a massive fan of books, which sounds odd, but I'd like to be, I think I need to get hooked by good books, and then my love for reading might emerge, I seem to be the only one who doesn't like reading!!)

Danielle

Emily--I'm glad to hear you liked Strange Meeting as well. I though it was an amazing book, too. I've sent you an email in response to your questions.

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