Shrapnel by William Wharton


By William Wharton

  • Release Date: 2012-08-16
  • Genre: Biography
Score: 4
From 83 Ratings
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A previously unpublished wartime memoir from the acclaimed author of Birdy and A Midnight Clear.

One of the most acclaimed American writers of his generation, and author of classic novels such as Birdy, A Midnight Clear and Dad, William Wharton was a very private man. Writing under a pseudonym, he rarely gave interviews, so fans and critics could only guess how much of his work was autobiographical and how much was fiction.

Now, for the first time, we are able to read the author’s own account of his experiences during the Second World War, events that went on to influence some of his greatest novels.

These are the tales that Wharton never wanted to tell his children. It is an unforgettable true story from one of America’s greatest writers.


‘A brave, unsettlingly frank memoir, that engages from start to finish.’ Evening Standard

‘One of the harshest of war memoirs that I've ever read' Libby Purves, Radio 4’s Midweek

‘An extraordinary memoir… once Wharton goes to war, Shrapnel becomes simply astonishing.’ The Australian

‘A raw, often farcical, sometimes brutal and occasionally tragic account of the bloody business of soldiering.’ Charles Lambert, author of Little Monsters

‘A remarkable book.’ Vanessa Gebbie, author of The Coward’s Tale

‘Harrowing yet gripping.’ The Lady

About the author

William Wharton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1925. During the Second World War, Wharton served in the US army, until an injury led to his discharge. In 1978, Wharton’s first novel, ‘Birdy’, was published to critical acclaim. Before his death in 2008, Wharton penned 8 further novels, and 3 memoirs. The most recent memoir, ‘Shrapnel’, was published for the first time in English in 2012.


  • Marvellously written

    By ourdave
    I really enjoyed this book, which is the alter ego of most WW2 books, but is a theme I'm picking up more and more. By and large they didn't want to be there. They were terrified and imperfect and it does (dramatic statement I know but...) mankind a huge disservice to pretend otherwise. It's written in an easy and warm writing style I loved and will be going through the author's other works next. And to the author: you were 18/19: go easy on yourself.
  • Shrapnel. One mans journey through horror

    By BrianfjLynch
    Simple style yet captures the chaos uncertainty and moral confusion of war. A straight up guy trying to get through it all.
  • Candid and heart wrenching at times

    By Dartnella
    I really enjoyed Wharton's style and approach to writing about a traumatic period of time and his experiences of WW2.