It’s a classic that’s been on my list forever. Interesting that knowing the story I always thought it would be one of those hard to read, depressing war-time stories, but it is nothing of that sort. Of course it’s sad, but still there is this gleam of hope all along that comes through even despair.
That is what – in my opinion – makes it lighter compared to other war-time literature. I loved Hemingway’s Farewell to arms or For whom the bell tolls but at certain points when he started philosophizing about war I wished he would stop. In this one even philosophical contemplations about the psychological depths of war seem light and easy and they still manage to affect as honest. I loved how the Shakespeare quote that the title is from came back in different parts of the novel, sometimes literally, other times we just know.
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
For me the hopefulness of the whole story is even more enthralling knowing that the book came out in 1942, when the war was still at its hights and there was hardly any reason to hope. I just learned that there was a movie made of it as early as 1943, probably with the aim of using its message of positivity and patriotism for propaganda reasons. I still want to watch it though.
Anyway this book is a wonderful masterpiece, absolutely worths reading!