Best Summer Reads of…1918? By Ripley Proserpina

When trying to decide what to write for this week’s blog, I considered making a list of summer reads. You know—books I can’t wait to read. But then I got to thinking, what were people reading a hundred years ago? Wouldn’t it be fun if this summer, I read some of the books published in 1918? 

I’m a bit of a history nerd (actually- I’m a huge history nerd, but whatever, I own it) and 1918 was a big year in world history. The War to End All Wars, World War I, was coming to a close, but millions of young men had died. An entire generation was wiped out. 

So, what sorts of books were people reading? Were they seeking escape from this tragic reality? Were they looking for answers why? 

The answer seems to be—yes. They were doing all of those things. Take a look. 

Greatheart by Ethel M. Dell… It’s a love triangle! We’re talking… the handsome rich dude, and his younger, slightly short brother who walks with a limp. According to one reviewer, “her stories (are) much too enjoyable to quibble about the abundance of adjectives.” 

Twenty-Three and a Half Hours’ Leave by Mary Roberts Rinehart

This historical romance/war fiction is about a young soldier on leave from WWI and is written by the first woman war correspondent on the Belgian front!

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

This is the story about a young captain who returns home to his wife and family shellshocked (what we now call PTSD). English lord. Amnesia. A secret love. Sounds promising! 

And the last one: The Marne by Edith Wharton. I put this one in because I adore Edith Wharton. No one writes a better rip-your-heart-out romance than her. This short story is about a rich American who is touring France when the war breaks out.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle all these books. For romances, they seem pretty heavy, but 1918 was a year of heavy things (from https://www.cleveland.com)…

President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points of Peace are presented. Also this year: Wilson would become the first president to travel to Europe while serving as president, when he attended the Versailles Peace Conference in France.

The first case of Spanish flu in the United States is declared in Kansas; 675,000 Americans would die from the pandemic.

The year saw the armistice signed, signaling an end to the First World War, and the formation of Yugoslavia.

Tsar Nicholas, his wife and their five children are assassinated in Russia, ending the reign of the imperial family.

On April 20, the Red Baron of Germany (Manfred von Richthofen) notches his 80th kill as a fighter pilot. He would die the next day.

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