It’s the second day of the week! It’s also time for a Top 5 Tuesday update. Top 5 Tuesdays was initially created by Shanah @ the Bionic Bookworm but is now currently being hosted by Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads.

This week’s topic: Top 5 books with war / battle

Wars and battles are discomfiting subjects. Nevertheless, these are subjects that one cannot easily avoid when one embarks on a journey across literature. Works of historical fiction, in particular, are brimming with this. The Second World War, for instance, is ubiquitous in literature. Moreover, it is depicted not only by German or American writers. I have come across this subject in the works of Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino, and even Nigerian writers. The war has a far-reaching impact than many of us imagined. Here are books about wars and battles that have stood out for me.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Kicking off the list is a seminal work written by a rising name in the African, and by extension, the global literary scene. Set during the Nigerian Civil War which lasted from 1967 to 1970, Half of a Yellow Sun is a depiction of the Biafran’s struggle for independence. In a prose fraught with nostalgia, Adichie gave voices to those who were muted by the pandemonium caused by the war. The novel tackled the evils of war and corruption, elucidating how they disrupt the natural flow and tides of time and how they rip apart the bonds that keep humanity at ease. This was my first Adichie novel and I am already impressed by her profound understanding and language.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I guess this is a book that you wouldn’t find in a similar list, at least I think so. But Susanna Clarke’s epic debut novel does grapple with war albeit in a manner that is more fantastical. After all, magic is at the heart of the novel. Nevertheless, the novel was built around the Napoleonic wars and war is a subject extensively portrayed in the novel. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is indeed a masterpiece as it touched on everything that made English fiction soar. The 10 years Clarke spent researching her work was worth it because she not only wrote a book, she wrote a masterpiece that enthralls with its complexity, density, and overall beauty. It deserves all the accolades it got from all literary pundits. In a manner of speaking, English magic is alive, rather English literature is very much alive.

The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

From Africa to Europe, the third book in this list transports the readers to more recent times. Zeyn Joukhadar’s The Map of Salt and Stars, unlike the first two novels in this list, is also more peripatetic as it takes the readers on a journey from Joukhadar’s home nation of Syria all the way to Gibraltar. The family at the heart of his – Joukhadar is nonbinary and uses he/him/his s pronouns – debut novel attempts to flee the war that plagued Syria. Amidst the dark and heavy subjects the book dealt with, what floats to the surface was Joukhadar’s evocative and beautiful writing. The execution was brimming with colors and palatable imagery. He did an impressive job of highlighting a seminal subject while feeding the readers’ insatiable appetite with an incredible story of two young women who charted their own destinies amidst strife and a plethora of atrocities and uncertainties.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The next book takes the writers across the Atlantic to the United States. One certainly cannot discount Margaret Mitchell’s debut (and only) novel, Gone with the Wind. Easily one of the world’s most distinguished titles, one cannot miss out on the book whilst on a journey through American literature. Mitchell did an impressive job in fleshing out Scarlett O’Hara, one of literature’s most memorable characters. This makes readers forget that O’Hara’s story commenced with the start of the American Civil War. The novel is more than just Scarlett’s story, it is the history of the American South. Within the bounds of this behemoth of a work is a kaleidoscope of colors that project the different subjects it dealt with, such as the horrors of war, camaraderie, and feminism. It is also a great and complex character study that is an easier read than I originally thought. It is lengthy but it was a pleasurable read that was unworthy of my intimidation.

The Sympathizer by Nguyễn Thanh Việt

Wow. Plowing through this list, I can’t believe how many wars there were across history. Another war that has become prominent was the Vietnam War which became renowned because of the involvement of the United States. It comes as no surprise that the war has become a favorite among Vietnamese and Vietnamese American writers such as Nguyễn Thanh Việt. It was literally the subject of his debut novel, The Sympathizer, a book that was critically acclaimed that it won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. The story’s highest point is Nguyen’s not blaming the war on anyone. In an essay about the book, Nguyen was quoted as saying “we aren’t just victims but victimizers as well.” As a whole, the book finds relevance in its exploration of the correlation between war and immigration. Whereas the events took place in the 1970s, the story transcends history, especially with the spate of migration from Syria due to ISIS attacks.

Trieste by Daša Drndić

Then, of course, there are your novels that explored the Second World War. As I soon realized, it is a subject that one cannot avoid in literature, especially if your interest lies in history. At one point, I felt exasperated as I cram through texts which share several similarities. But then again, it slowly dawned on me why these works remain relevant in the present. Every voice needs to be heard, like the ones captured by Daša Drndić in her novel Trieste. The novel recounted the ugly reality that the whole world has already heard of. Trieste is an allegorical peephole, a metaphor for the peepholes drilled into gas chambers for the persecutors to take a peek into the gas chambers where the Jews were suffering. Trieste is an extensive chronicle of the scenes behind the concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Birkenau, places that we equate with fear, pain, suffering, grief, and ultimately, horror.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

You said war? Of course, I am not going to miss out on listing another seminal tome in the ambit of literature, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. At first, I was daunted by the book because of its thickness. I also admit that I struggled with Anna Karenina. But when I got over my intimidation, I realized how easy of a read it was – Tolstoy’s words flowed smoothly. It is complex but this is mostly due to its intricateness. The vivid portrayals gave life to numerous memorable scenes, including the part where Prince Andrey was lying wounded in the Austerlitz battlefield, looking up at the endless azure. The contemplation of his fate is finely written, and very relatable. It is a fascinating masterpiece about human behavior, war, and philosophy. Its biggest accomplishment, more than its depiction of the war, is its representation of the indomitable Russian spirit.