Between January 2014 and March 2014, and not through any design, I read two books about World War Two and both are, in my opinion, masterpieces.
The first was Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh, which I read in January, and after I'd finished it I doubted I'd read a better book all year. In March 2014, I read Alone in Berlin (aka Every Man Dies Alone) by Hans Fallada, which is another masterpiece, and absolutely superb.
I can now add a third book about World War Two to my growing list of masterpieces about the conflict. The Human Kind wasAlexander Baron's third work, first published in 1953, and based on his World War Two experiences. It was republished by Black Spring Press in Autumn 2011.
Alexander Baron's first novel, From the City, from the Plough(1948), was a best seller. It was based on Alexander Baron's own war service, fighting across France from the Normandy D-Day beaches.
Baron went on to write many London novels which were similarly based largely on personal experience and observation.
This is the second book I have read by Alexander Baron (1917-1999), the first was the excellent King Dido (1969). I now intend reading everything he ever wrote.
The Human Kind is a fascinating little book, a sequence of unconnected though clearly autobiographical vignettes of life as a young soldier. The stories appear chronologically and chart the journey of the narrator from enthusiastic conscript to war-weary veteran. The beautifully written stories provide little glimpses of a wide variety of personalities. It's all here: the young, the old, cynics, idealists, corruption, depravity, wisdom, kindness, culture clashes, intolerance, violence, surprises, and the surreal. I cannot praise this book highly enough. It's extraordinary. Each tale has the ring of authenticity and each vividly illuminates an aspect of life during World War Two. The only caveat being the final story, which is an anomaly, however this does not detract from the magnificence of this short, punch, memorable collection.