Daniel's Reviews > All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
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's review
Jul 23, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2009
Recommended to Daniel by: Rose
Read in July, 2009

I don't know why it took me so long to get to "All Quiet on the Western Front," but I'm glad I finally read it and am grateful to my friend Rose for recommending it. The book, first published in the late 1920s, is an absolutely heartbreaking, wonderfully written novel about the permanent damage done to those who fight in wars. Few anti-war novels written since have matched Erich Maria Remarque's unsettling book, and I doubt any have surpassed it.

Given how famous "All Quiet" is, there's little need for me to say much about it here. (Plus, it's so much easier to write negative reviews than positive ones, and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this book.) There are several heart-rending passages that I expect will stick with me for a long time, though, and that I feel the need to mention: Paul Bäumer's leave, during which he finds it nearly impossible to relate normally to his family after his experiences on the front; Paul's time in a shell hole with French soldier Gérard Duval; the brief interlude Paul and his comrades spend with a group of French girls, and how the gal with whom he'd been paired treats him in the end; and, of course, the scene near the book's end involving Stanislaus Katczinsky, easily "All Quiet"'s most interesting character. (I won't say anything about the scene with Kat so as not to spoil it for those who haven't read the book yet.)

One final thought, which I bring up because of Logan's comment that he didn't like "All Quiet," which he last read in high school. I've talked about this before, most recently in my review of "The Sea Wolf," and I feel the need to bring it up again: Many American readers, it seems, have bad memories of great works of literature they were made to read in school. That they were forced to read the books is, of course, part of the problem, but I also think schoolchildren often are assigned books they're not yet ready for. I don't mean that they're not smart enough to read and understand the books, but rather that they're not mature enough to have the books resonate properly with them. This would definitely be true of "All Quiet." It would be the most unusual of high school students -- one in a hundred, perhaps, if that many -- who could truly appreciate the issues raised in this book.

I would encourage anyone who hasn't read "All Quiet" yet to check it out. And for those who read it in school and were left with a bad taste in their mouths, it's probably time to revisit the book. That means you, Logan.
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Reading Progress

07/20 page 22
01/31 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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message 1: by Rose (new) - added it

Rose Hope you like this one.

Daniel It's great so far, Rose. Thank you for the recommendation!

Kasia it's so much easier to write negative reviews than positive ones
So true.

And I really really really liked that book, so I'm there with you.

Chloe I really really really did not like this book, but am willing to believe that I read it at a point in my life when I could not appreciate it. Perhaps a post-high school reread is in order.

Kasia I LOVED war books in high school, God knows why. Holocaust, misery, death, bring it on? o_O

But this I've read ~2 years back.

message 6: by Nick (last edited Jul 24, 2009 05:07AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nick Black
were left with a bad taste in their mouths, it's probably time to revisit the book.

I was coming to this same conclusion as I reached the end of your review. Back into the hopper it goes. BY THIS YOU WILL BE JUDGED, NEW FRIEND DANIEL.

Daniel Don't you judge me, Nick!

I'm kidding, of course. Go right ahead and judge me. I stand by my review.

Daniel Kasia, that's why I specifically said American readers. Poles grow up much faster than we do. A 30-year-old American has the maturity of an 18-year-old Pole.

message 9: by Rose (new) - added it

Rose Nah, you just tell yourself that so you don't feel like a cradle-snatcher.

Kemper One of my all-time favorite books, and your review just reminded me that it's been too long since I've re-read it. Simply one of the greatest novels about war ever.

I also like your point about American kids resenting books they're forced to read. I had to read Slaughterhouse 5 in high school, and while I didn't hate it, I didn't really get it and thought Vonnegut was horribly overrated. So I didn't read any of his other works until recently, and now he's one of my favorite authors.

Kasia Daniel wrote: "Kasia, that's why I specifically said American readers. Poles grow up much faster than we do. A 30-year-old American has the maturity of an 18-year-old Pole."

I'm not sure about that.... I think it was just a bad case of some morbid fascination with humanconditon. At least when it comes to me. I don't know about Poles in general. I can tell you only that we tend to read little after the school is done. Americans might start their reading adventure a bit later, but at least they stick to it. That's what I think.

Daniel I think you may be as wrong in your generalizations about Americans as I am about Poles, Kasia. It's a relatively small percentage of Americans who are dedicated readers. The vast majority of us read very little after completing school, as I understand it.

Kasia Damn generalizations. I should abstain from those in the future. It's a tricky business.

Brittany I loved this book when I found in it grade 10, and understood it, although if I were made to cut it up and go over every little detail I could see how students in high school could start to dislike it.

message 15: by Elke (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elke I totally agree with everything you said!
The book is really great (though at the moment I'm only halfway), it's not only the contents but the beautiful language also...

And it's not only American readers who dislike reading because they were foreced to at highschool (at a moment they were not yet ready for it - I think you need to read books at the right moment, you have to be ready for what it has to say).
It 's just the same down here in Belgium. I do notice the symptoms with a lot of my friends (I'm 22). Although we left highschool many years ago, they still refuse to pick up a book because they were forced to back then... It's a sad thing!

Kerri I am a 9th grader. I was required to read All Quiet in English and am glad that it happened, and I absolutely loved the book. I would never have picked this book up on my own,not when the first few pages described what the soldiers ate and listed off about ten characters that I thought would never be fleshed out. But the characters did get fleshed out, and I grew to care for them. The book shows war without any sugar-coating, making it as real as can be for a safe citizen like me sitting at home, and that's what I like about it. I especially liked how Paul describes his struggle to retain his humanity amidst the horror. And you're right, writing negative reviews is so much easier; writing a positive one usually ends up in gushing.

message 17: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie Mcsweeney Being forced to read a book does irrevocable damage I think, having to read To Kill A Mocking Bird in school ruined it for me, I don't think I would enjoy it more if i reread it.

message 18: by Mckenna (new) - added it

Mckenna I am in ninth grade and I actually love all of the books that teachers assign. They are great recommendations!

message 19: by Maya (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maya Zauberman On the point of being forced to read books in HS, I can ABSOLUTELY relate. I was forced to read Romeo and Juliet in HS- and I hated every second of it. I despised it, because I felt forced to analyze every line to death, and felt bored by the out-loud reading of it. The only good thing I remember is acting some of it out loud.
Had I not been forced to read R and J in HS, I think I would have enjoyed the novel a bit more.
I might re-read it one day. I don't know.

message 20: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie Mcsweeney Mad_Maudie wrote: "I was "forced" to read All Quiet and To Kill A Mockingbird in high school, and I loved them both because I loved to read. Period. However, as a teacher now, I've found that my students respond bett..."

I just want to be clear... "forced" really is an appropriate word in this context! The book was the only one we studied in that particular course, I was 15 and had to answer state exam questions on it. There was no way out! You say you loved to read these books because you loved to read... I don't quite follow that argument. I loved to read ever since I was able to do it for myself and before that I demanded to be read to... I stand by my previous post... being force to read a book does damage your ability to enjoy it.

Give pupils a wide range to choose from so there will be something that speaks to everyone. It would probably mean extra work for the teacher which is probably why we had "required reading". For me being forced to read To Kill a Mockingbird wasn't too bad because I probably read 50 other books that year but for some of my classmates that was the only book they read... and they possibly hated it too...

Matthias Matthias Totally agree. Absolute masterpiece.

Snowfire Warren I was made to read All Quiet in high school, and as soon as I finished it I went out and bought my own copy. I loved this story, and still love it to this day. I'll occasionally got back and read it again, I still laugh and cry at the same parts lol.

message 23: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Best. Book. Ever. (IMO, of course.) ;) And I agree with your opinion regarding reading in high school ... I've always been an avid reader but I can't say I (personally) would have had the emotional maturity as a high school student to appreciate this work for what it is. (As an example, I still can't think of "Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood without revulsion ... but it's a great work. Crazy.) On the other hand, my partner read "All Quiet" in high school, LOVED it, and still counts it among his favourite work; I'm also encouraged by all the comments here by students who have read this and loved it. Clearly they are on a higher emotional plane than I was at that age. :)

message 24: by T (new)

T Moore AQOTWF is the first great book I read. I read it as a romantic young teenager ~ 13 YO. It became the yardstick by which I have always measured great books since.

I just reread it over 50 years later. WOW!!! It is better today (of course - I see more now - and read better - maybe? - haha)

No other WAR subjected book is as complete for me. From its beauty and composition to its message and action.

I have read most. EG The Things We Carried, The Kindly Ones, The Red Badge Of Courage (a pro war novel). As Yul Brynner would say, "Excetera Excetera Excetera - pretty much the whole list.

It even stands out among the rest of literature as a great work - certainly as an equal.

A great book it is by any standard!

For anyone to give it less than GR 5 Stars is an outrage. They should be sent to the front.

message 25: by J. (last edited Jan 12, 2015 05:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

J. Keck I really appreciated your positive review and your thoughts about not just the book, but about students who are forced to read a book like this. It generally takes many years of living--especially if one had has been in the service in a shooting war--to understand the levels of despair, futility, sacrifice, and loss experienced by
soldiers, families of soldiers and the civilians at home. I discovered that in writing my novel and a concluding passage where the character, many years after the Civil War, said to her great granddaughter: "We were a crushed and forsaken people--a-a country gone to ash. So many of our young men and youth killed. We were a country of old men, women, and children. Our homes wee ruined, our land despoiled. Misery and Poverty were out lot. Endless days and nights were filled with Rage, Despair and Bitterness. Eventually, the Despair ebbed, not the Rage nor the Bitterness." War does that and many other sad and terrible things as well.
Thank you for a very good review. It's so poignant and relevant to the anniversary of the Great War, which affected all Europeans--not just the English and French. When casting about for blame, all had a hand in it.

message 26: by Edwin Sampson (new)

Edwin Sampson Have not read this book as yet, but from these reviews i thint i wil! Like it. Thank

Kassia I just read it for high school, and you're right: a lot of my fellow high schoolers just don't get it. One of my friends said "It's kinda boring; I wish it had more fighting action." I couldn't believe it! Also, your list of parts that stick with you, well, it's the same for me, plus the part with the Russians and Kemmerich. The part with Kat I feel is the worst, it's like in your face "war sucks, all is futile!" This book is just haunting.

message 28: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel With all of that horror I find it strange that one of my most haunting memories from this book is the sound of the horses screaming in agony. I think it was Detering (a farmer) who's said that bringing horses into this war was the vilest baseness. Shocking imagery.

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