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Your Death Would Be Mine

Your Death Would Be Mine

Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War

Martha Hanna

ISBN 9780674030510

Publication date: 12/15/2008

Paul and Marie Pireaud, a young peasant couple from southwest France, were newlyweds when World War I erupted. With Paul in the army from 1914 through 1919, they were forced to conduct their marriage mostly by correspondence. Drawing upon the hundreds of letters they wrote, Martha Hanna tells their moving story and reveals a powerful and personal perspective on war.

Civilians and combatants alike maintained bonds of emotional commitment and suffered the inevitable miseries of extended absence. While under direct fire at Verdun, Paul wrote with equal intensity and poetic clarity of the brutality of battle and the dietary needs (as he understood them) of his pregnant wife. Marie, in turn, described the difficulties of working the family farm and caring for a sick infant, lamented the deaths of local men, and longed for the safe return of her husband. Through intimate avowals and careful observations, their letters reveal how war transformed their lives, reinforced their love, and permanently altered the character of rural France.

Overwhelmed by one of the most tumultuous upheavals of the modern age, Paul and Marie found solace in family and strength in passion. Theirs is a human story of loneliness and longing, fear in the face of death, and the consolations of love. Your Death Would Be Mine is a poignant tale of ordinary people coping with the trauma of war.


  • Martha Hanna achieves the remarkable feat of connecting the lives of two people to the events of a world war. This accomplishment is all the more impressive for her ability to never lose sight of either the small or big picture. This deftly written and elegantly crafted book reminds us of how war deeply affects everyone, from the front line to the home front.

    —Michael S. Neiberg, author of Fighting the Great War


  • 2007, Winner of the J. Russell Major Prize


  • Martha Hanna is Professor of History, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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