This book is set in France, starting right before World War I and ending just as World War II begins. Pierre is from a wealthy family and is engaged to Simone. Agnes is from a lower middle class family. The different social classes didn't mingle. But Pierre and Agnes are in love and they marry against their parents' wishes. Shortly after their marriage, Pierre is called up.
"It was the very beginning of the war, when the heart bleeds for everyone who dies, when tears are shed for each man sent to fight. Sadly, as time goes on, people get used to it all. They think of only one soldier, theirs. But at the start of a war the heart is still tender; it hasn't hardened yet."
The story follows the families through the horrors of WWI, the time between the wars, and up to the start of WWII.
"If they have good commanders, if everything goes according to plan, they'll make it through, as we did. But . . . I'm afraid. Too many people have told them about the last war. . . they know that all our sacrifices were useless, that victory conquered no one . . ."
This was published in 1947, 5 years after the author's death in Auschwitz. It is my classic about war for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2014. I had already read Suite Francaise, also by this author, when I belonged to a book club, but I thought this was better. I rate it 4 out of 5.