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Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

American novelist Edith Wharton was living in Paris when World War I broke out in 1914. She obtained permission to visit sites behind the lines, including hospitals, ravaged villages, and trenches. Fighting France records her travels along the front in 1914 and 1915, and celebrates the indomitable spirit of the French people.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Refugees. The look in their eyes is part of the look of Paris. It is the dark shadow on the brightness of the face she turns to the enemy. These poor people cannot look across the borders to eventual triumph. They belong mostly to a class whose knowledge of the world's affairs is measured by the shadow of their village steeple. They are no more curious of the laws of causation than the thousands overwhelmed at Avezzano. They were ploughing and sowing, spinning and weaving and minding their business, when suddenly a great darkness full of fire and blood came down on them. And now they are here, in a strange country, among unfamiliar faces and new ways, with nothing left to them in the world but the memory of burning homes and massacred children and young men dragged to slavery, of infants torn from their mothers, old men trampled by drunken heels and priests slain while they prayed beside the dying. These are the people who stand in hundreds every day outside the doors of. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is an interesting bit of war propaganda and valentine to the French nation. Wharton was living in Paris when war broke out in 1914 and she describes its effects on the civilian population, their shopping habits, cafe life, the availability of taxis and such. She then takes a driving tour of...more

A remarkable series of newspaper articles Wharton wrote for US magazines from within France in the first two years of the Great War. Her prose is beautiful as ever. Highly effective and moving propaganda and a verbal portrait of how fast civilisation can break down despite all efforts to stop it....more

"The next morning... We woke to a noise of guns closer and more incessant"

Whartons first hand account of traveling through France during the first world war.
Interesting, but not captivating.

In addition to being a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, essayist, and author of short stories, Edith Wharton was one of those Americans who fell in love with France at an early age. She would in fact make it her principal place of residence from 1911 up to her death in 1937. When the First World...more

Interesting read

This book and Wharton’s observations are a leverage which brought the US into WW I. She helped bring a personal accounting of the ravages of war to American public and its politicians. However the language is too flowery and emotionally distant for my tastes. Worth the read given...more

4.5 stars (liked a lot)

Through gorgeous and flowing prose, Edith Wharton relays her perceptive and warmly sensitive observations of France during World War One with the feel of a travel memoir. Wonderfully vivid imagery of landscapes, architecture, people, and activity gleaned from her travels th...more

Edith Wharton's memoir of touring the Western Front -- often describing being right in the trenches with the fighting men! -- during the first year and a half of the Great War. Beautifully written, as you might expect from Wharton, and completely focused on the day-to-day changes in France as the...more

This is the collection of a series of articles that Edith Wharton wrote in 1915 from a tour of the Western Front in World War I France. She wasn't in the midst of battle but she did go into the trenches to get a view of that perspective, and she heard the roar of the big guns as each side traded...more

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