I don't know if I've ever really imagined myself going to war, so this question has caused me to stop and think. It's like your desert island pick, only opposite, right? One book that will get you through it all...except that in war (or some other similarly horrific situation) you may not have much time to read, you are probably a little worried about having courage or facing death, and not necessarily in prime living conditions.
There is one book that I think would fill the necessary areas brilliantly:
- engaging to read in small bits or long stretches (also, straight through/mixed excerpts)
- real situations to make it more personal/meaningful
- different enough setting to make the themes universal
- main character I can identify with
- difficult situations to contrast my difficult situation
- display of courage, integrity, and hope--to inspire those qualities in my situation
- substantial and satisfying in size and themes
It isn't Persuasion, much as I love it. Nor is it War and Peace, despite the war-time setting and the fact that I loved it as well. It is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn...and just thinking about it makes me want to jump into reading it again (must resist! did you see my recent post?!) I think I love everything about this book. I love the setting, the characters, the plot, the writing. It has the power to put me through the whole range of emotions, from laughter and compassion to sadness and anger. Francie Nolan's childhood really is a sort of battle, and she shows so much courage and integrity that she should come off as gratingly good, too perfect to be plausible, yet somehow she doesn't. Certainly a good enough companion in the midst of war, this might be my desert island book as well.