What to Read After Watching Dunkirk

If you Enjoyed Watching Dunkirk, Try Reading...

I have never been very interested in the military side of World War II, but a few novels read recently have captured my imagination with their detailed depiction of the evacuation of British Forces at Dunkirk during the Battle of France.

Christopher Nolan’s new film Dunkirk just premiered in cinemas, and is likely to be one of the biggest films of the year.  Nolan has stated that Dunkirk is not a war film, but is ‘a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film.’  If you find you enjoyed the film and your interest in this era in history has been piqued, here are some suggestions for novels to read if you want to learn more about the Dunkirk evacuation and the experiences of Allied civilians and soldiers during World War II.

Their Finest by Lissa Evans
A wonderful (if more light hearted) counterpart to Nolan’s Dunkirk, as this novel is about a British propaganda film made about the Dunkirk evacuation.  It felt particularly meta and intertextual reading the farce of this filming recently, as promotion geared up for the release of Dunkirk.  A film adaptation of Their Finest was also released in 2017.

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis
In Connie Willis’ novels about time-travelling historians trapped in WWII England, the details of the evacuation at Dunkirk are crucial to the time travellers own evacuation back to the 21st century. The second novel All Clear also has some really fascinating detail about Operation Fortitude and other counterintelligence measures taken by the Allies.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
The hellish experience of being far from home during wartime is captured well in McEwan’s WWII novel, which features Robbie, conscripted into the army to avoid a prison sentence, at Dunkirk – awaiting the evacuation. Robbie’s experiences in Northern France are vividly depicted in the novel, and the evacuation is featured quite prominently in the 2007 film adaptation by Joe Wright.

The Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot
When a woman unexpected inherits a yacht, she discovers that the boat hides secrets that could shed light on Hitlers darkest schemes. This novel really brings to life the experiences of the soldiers evacuated at Dunkirk.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
This novel doesn’t feature Dunkirk, but it is one of my favourite WWII novels – focusing on some of the counterintelligence that went with the Allied forces cracking the Enigma Code.  This is a big sprawling novel that I think is one of the best post-modern historical novels about WWII out there (a good one to read if you liked Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon or The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan).

If you enjoyed watching Christopher Nolan's film Dunkirk, try reading some of the follow novels set during WWII that feature the evacuation of Allied Forces during the Battle of France

If You Liked The Handmaid’s Tale…

If You Liked the Handmaids Tale.. try reading...

If you enjoyed Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale, you may be interested in trying some of the following novels, tv series and films – many of which raise (still) relevant questions about personal agency, fertility and reproduction, and society (especially when it takes a dystopian turn).

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Children of Men by P. D. James
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
He, She and It by Marge Piercy
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sherri S. Tepper
Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Humans created by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley
Orphan Black created by John Fawcett and Graham Manson
Top of the Lake created by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee
Never Let Me Go directed by Mark Romanek
Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Novels to try reading if you liked The Handmaids Tale

If You Liked Westworld…

If you liked Westworld, try reading...

If you liked Westworld, try reading or watching...

If you are loving Westworld for its setting that on the surface seems historical and nostalgic, but is full of high level surveillance and subtle tinkering…  If you are enjoying Westworld for its portrayal of the gamification of both history and human experience, for the days that repeat endlessly, and the recursive moments and events that shield or ultimately expose glitches in the system, ghosts in the machine…  or if you are drawn in to the series for its constant questioning of what it means to be human, and how we measure our own humanity… you might like to try some of the following television, films and novels which explore similar themes.

Deadwood created by David Milch
Jurassic Park directed by Steven Spielberg
Bladerunner directed by Ridley Scott
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick
Ex Machina directed by Alex Garland
Humans created by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley
The Company Series by Kage Baker
Cabin in the Woods directed by Drew Goddard
The Truman Show directed by Peter Weir
The Peripheral by William Gibson
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Edge of Tomorrow directed by Doug Liman
Firefly created by Joss Whedon

If you Liked The Kettering Incident…

Kettering

I have been busy in the evenings the last few weeks watching the gorgeous Elizabeth Debicki in new Australian drama The Kettering Incident.  Set in Tasmania, this series uses the best creepy aspects of its setting to create a suspenseful gothic vision of rural Australia.  I love that while the series is very ‘rural gothic’ (a genre I love), it also has a touch of the supernatural and otherwordly.  I’m not going to say any more, because… spoilers… but below are some shows, movies and books that I found myself thinking about while watching.

Top of The Lake directed by Jane Campion
In My Father’s Den directed by Brad McGann
Broadchurch created by Chris Chibnall
Twin Peaks created by David Lynch
Stranger Things created by The Duffer Brothers
The X Files created by Chris Carter
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

If You Liked Life After Life…

life after life

‘Time isn’t circular,’ she said to Dr. Kellet. ‘It’s like a … palimpsest.’
‘Oh dear,’ he said. ‘That sounds vexing.’
‘And memories are sometimes in the future.’

Life After Life was my first Kate Atkinson, and while I hear that it’s not very much like some of her other writing, I very much enjoyed this novel for its recursive overlaying of stories, and the many replays of Ursula’s life.  I thought Kate Atkinson played with some very interesting ideas related to memory, fate and the idea of personal agency.  It was another of those excellent novels that pairs just a little bit of speculative writing with a lot of historical detail.

If Ursula’s many lives in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life also appealed to you, you might want to try some of the following:

If you liked the detail about the London Blitz and the multiple, complex and recursive storylines you might like Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis

If you liked the fatalistic aspects of a personal life revisited repeatedly, you might like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or the film About Time, directed by Richard Curtis

If you liked Ursula’s growing awareness of her reincarnation and kept reading to experience her journey, you might like Every Day by David Levithan or The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

If you would like to read more about the Todd family, you might like Kate Atkinson’s follow up novel about Ursula’s younger brother Teddy, A God in Ruins

If you liked Fox Corner and the complex relations between members of the Todd Family, you might like a like a book with a similar dynamic like Howard’s End by E.M Forster or the more modern Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido

If you liked the idea of altering history explored in Life After Life, you might like Kindred by Octavia Butler, or Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

If you Liked… Downton Abbey

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Now that the last episode ever of Downton Abbey has aired, I have been thinking about where I can go next for my quintessential British fix.  For those days when reading Tatler on the bus just doesn’t cut it, I will likely turn to some of the following:

Longbourn by Jo Baker
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley
Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
Falling Angels by Tracey Chevalier
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Life at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse
Blackout by Connie Willis
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge
Gosford Park directed by Robert Altman

If you Liked… Fates and Furies

I tore through Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies in the final days of 2015, and it was a bit of a conflicted read for me.  I’m still not quite sure why I enjoyed it so much.  I do know that it was beautifully written (a language book, definitely), and I was very interested in the development of both main characters: Lotto and Mathilde.  I also thought it had some interesting things to say about luck and the meaning of success, and placed an unexpected lens on the idea of privilege.

fates-and-furies-book-cover

Lauren Groff said in a recent interview that she would describe her book as: ‘a novel that appears to be one thing, but cracks open to reveal another. A book that plays with ideas about privilege, female rage, creation, happiness, opera, destiny and, of course, marriage.’

Still thinking and feeling the book through… but as I was reading it, these were some other reads that echoed in my mind.

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If You Liked… The Luminaries

As a New Zealander who likes historical novels that have a modern sensibility, when I first read The Luminaries I felt like it had been grown in a lab just for me.  My favourite way to describe the Booker Prize winning novel is to say that it is ‘Middlemarch meets Deadwood’.  I am a huge fan of both the HBO series Deadwood, and George Eliot’s classic novel, and I am pretty sure Eleanor Catton is too.

luminaries front

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