I never set out to write fiction about music—instead I stumble through research until I’m far from my life, immersed in subjects like Alaskan crabbing and World War I—and yet music always seems to find its way into my work, and, finally, to take a central role. In The Verdun Affair, music follows the two central characters as they meet in the ruins of the titular city, and move away from and back to one another—in Paris, Bologna, and, finally, Hollywood—in the years that follow the Great War.

For this playlist, I considered including songs I listened to while writing, or focusing on contemporary pieces that speak to The Verdun Affair’s mood and themes. But the characters themselves interact with music so often on the novel’s pages that I decided to stick with the pieces they encounter, many of which were written in the early years of the 20th century, a time of horrific violence, but also great beauty.