12 Great Reads about Invasion

A scene from a novel about invasion
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Today, you will be hard pressed to find a man who has not heard or read about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In times of such a political crisis, we begin to wonder whether we have missed the signs of a changing world and how this unprovoked war might redefine our future. 

To help us understand the nature of conflict and the aftermath of invasion, we have turned to fiction for some answers. From The First World War battles and brutal colonisations to extraterrestrial invasions, these twelve stories explore the struggles for power, brave acts of resistance and the price we pay for our freedom. 

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

IMage Credit: Headline

Set in 1930s Poland, the film follows the lives of the director of a thriving zoo and his wife Antonina with a remarkable sympathy for animals. However, the German invasion in 1939 changes their lives irrevocably, destroying the animals during the siege of the city. Having joined the Polish resistance, the couple go to extraordinary lengths to provide a shelter to over 300 Jews at their zoo premises. A heart-wrenching account of the human courage and humility during the World War II.

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July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin

Image Credit: icon Books

“This book covers in detail the weeks in July and August, 1914, when Europe was spiralling toward a world war and the destruction of a way of life. The spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the ancient Hapsburg throne ruling the Austro/Hungarian Empire. But this was not necessarily the reason for the war and that the original plan for retaliation was the concept of a regional war in which Austria could crush Serbia, their long-time enemy. However, things began to go awry when old treaties, partnerships and guarantees raised their heads and Germany, France, Russia, and Britain were soon involved in a rush of “diplomacy” which would be to the advantage of each of the major powers. The blunders and miscommunications were chilling… While the peace of the world was at stake, various governments were like sleepwalkers, stumbling forward recklessly.

“An excellent history of the events leading up to the horror that was The Great War.” – J. Hutchinson

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The Last of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Image Credit: Penguin Classics

It is 1757. Across north-eastern America the armies of Britain and France struggle for ascendancy. Their conflict, however, overlays older struggles between nations of native Americans for possession of the same lands and between the native peoples and white colonisers. Through these layers of conflict Cooper threads a thrilling narrative, in which Cora and Alice Munro, daughters of a British commander on the front line of the colonial war, attempt to join their father. Thwarted by Magua, the sinister ‘Indian runner’, they find help in the person of Hawkeye, the white woodsman, and his companions, the Mohican Chingachgook and Uncas, his son, the last of his tribe.

Through the character of Hawkeye, Cooper raises lasting questions about the practises of the American frontier and the eclipse of the indigenous cultures.

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Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Image Credit: Penguin Classics

In 1815, Napoleon’s miraculous escape from Elba casts a dark shadow over Europe. The news of the Corsican tyrant cutting a swath through the continent reach British shores, inspiring a nationwide patriotism and heroic resistance to the French hegemony. Exhausted and wounded, the armies of Europe unite in their final effort to stop General Bonaparte in his tracks. Meanwhile, a recent graduate of Miss Pinkerton’s Academy is preparing for the combat of her own. Vivacious and charismatic, Rebecca frequently sharpens her tongue in the battles of wits, evoking admiration and distrust in equal measure. Determined to claw her way up the social ladder, she uses her connections and natural charm to manipulate her way into high society. However, her aspirations might be short-lived as she discovers an abyss of emptiness behind the veil of pomposity.

A worthy rival to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, this fascinating kaleidoscope of deeply flawed characters represents a satirical view of the British upper class on the verge of Napoleonic invasion.

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King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

Image Credit: Houghton-Miffin

“Most of readers must be familiar with history of several evil men who have committed mass murder, destruction and indeed massive genocide on a horrific scale. The names of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the likes are well known. A name not so well known and in many ways quite forgotten now is King Leopold II, who in the late 1800s established Belgium as a colonial power in Africa, matching body counts and atrocities right along with the best of them. Greed, megalomania and the whims of an extremely rich and evil man changed the course of history and hundreds and thousands suffered greatly. Due to the fact that at the time these horrific events were unfolding the Congo information was not as available as it has been for the past 70 years or so, it took awhile for the world to realise just what this mass murderer was accomplishing.”- D.Blankenship

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The Charterhouse of Parma by Henri Stendhal

IMage Credit: Penguin Random House

For Henri Stendhal, a Romantic realist and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, The Charterhouse of Parma served as a springboard for his own reflections on changes sweeping across Europe. With each conquered country, the ideals of the French Revolution were spreading further throughout the continent. It was not long before the youth of Italy became infected with these radical civic codes, inspiring ardent supporters of Napoleon to fight for the new regime.

In Stendhal’s epic novel, an Italian nobleman, Fabrice del Dongo, encapsulates the tragic fate of young activists, who wanders unwittingly into the battle of Waterloo only to return to the court of Parma, where politics, heartbreak and deceit crush his illusions and jeopardise his future.

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The War of The Worlds by H. G. Wells

IMage Credit: Pan Macmillan

Inspired by H. G. Wells’ own reflections on the brutalities of the British colonisation of Tasmania, the novel exposes a catastrophic effect of invasion on humankind. 

When a giant ‘meteor’ crash-lands in Surrey, the earthlings rejoice at the thought of meeting visitors from outer space. Yet a menacing greeting with a heat-ray blast leads humanity to a chilling conclusion- the Earth is under siege. Unbeknown to anybody, the ripple effect of alien invasion will soon be felt throughout the country as Martians start using extraterrestrial technology against mankind. Transported by three-legged war machines, aliens incinerate and poison their way through to London, killing and feeding on humans in the process. And even when it seems like all hope is lost, mother nature comes to the rescue with an ultimate weapon against the invaders. 

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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

IMage Credit: Vintage Classics

Censored by Soviet authorities, this haunting tale describes the devastating effect of Russian Revolution of 1917 on a bourgeois family. Caught in the midst of a tumultuous period in history, Dr. Yury Zhivago becomes increasingly frustrated when political circumstances interfere with the lives of ordinary people. Torn between his loyalty to his wife and the urge to taste forbidden fruit, Yury channels his anger into philosophical poems that became an integral part of the plot. In the great epic tradition, the story seamlessly interweaves the brutality and harshness of the war with romance between star-crossed lovers into a heart-rending saga of love.

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

IMage Credit: William Morrow

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

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Nation by Terry Pratchett

IMage Credit: Corgi Childrens

When a massive tsunami, caused by volcanic eruption, obliterates an island in the Southern Pelagic Ocean, the entire population of Nation perishes, taking its culture, traditions and history to their grave. The only hope of recovery now lies in the hands of Mau. Together with a shipwrecked British girl Daphne, the native islander must resist the invasion, question his faith and rekindle his heritage in his bid to rebuild the New Nation. Complete with foul-mouthed parrots, shamans and cannibals, this utopian tale will teleport you to a mind-boggling place you never thought possible. 

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Invasion: Downfall by D C Alden

IMage Credit: Double Tap Press

Prime Minister Harry Beecham has escaped death by a whisker. The government has collapsed, and London is a war zone. His only option is to flee the city – if he can find a way out. As he attempts his perilous escape through the besieged city, Harry realises that the target is not just London…

It’s Europe itself.

As England buckles before the might of the Caliphate’s onslaught, the eye of the storm shifts to the north, where scattered British forces are gathering along an ancient border, as they await the final, bloody battle for survival.

A battle they must win so that millions can survive.

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

IMage Credit: Vintage

This heart-wrenching historical novel portrays the devastating consequences of the World War II on civilian life in Hamburg. As the nation undergoes a slow recovery from the trauma of its darkest days, an English family is battling their own demons, when forced to live under the same roof with the Germans. In their bid to reconcile with the past, two families will have to set aside their feelings and overcome the prejudice deeply rooted in their conscience. As animosity and hatred are replaced by love and longing, two unlikely lovers are pulled into a whirlwind romance leaving the avalanche of heartbreak and betrayal in its wake.

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