Friday, February 14, 2020

Three World War 2 Books

I've read quite a few books that are set in World War 2, but there are always new books being published. This time period has a perennial appeal to many readers.

I don't read a lot of fiction, but occasionally enjoy immersing myself in a well-written story. Each of these gives a different view of World War 2, and I considered the time living in their pages as well-spent.

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What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Gerta has survived the Holocaust and is now trying to begin a new life. I never considered the courage it took for young people to choose to love, marry, and begin families after having their childhood stolen by the Nazis. The book is lovely in its spare prose and poignant illustrations.

I picked up this book to preread it for my children, but decided it is better read by adults because of the few marriage details. The length of the book makes it perfect for an adult who wants a quick, but unforgettable, read.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Travel with a blind girl from Paris, a priceless diamond, a German orphan with a brilliant mind, and a cancer-stricken German officer until they meet in a small town along the sea. The gorgeous writing in the book makes it obvious why it has won so many awards.

I listened to this book on audio and wished I was reading a physical book so I could slow down and reread favorite lines. When I mentioned this on my blog a few months ago, a reader mailed me my own copy. I loved rereading it, but discovered that the audio had enhanced this book's pleasure, especially all the foreign words.

It took me several years of hearing rave reviews of this book before I finally read it. Now I'm the one recommending it to everyone. I now have two copies of the book, but often they are both lent out.  (The only thing I like better than reading a book is sharing it, so if you live close by, please come raid my shelves.)

Some have said that this book was too sad for them. I get that. But to me a book set during war has to be sad. I don't want books that glorify war and paint an unrealistic picture of the devastation it causes. But I also can't read books that are graphic or too dark. I found this book, though sad, was hopeful and somewhat redemptive. But if you want a happy-ever-after ending, this book might not be for you.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

The author of this book discovered some women's magazines from World War 2 in England and was fascinated by the help column and the problems that women were facing at that time. She wrote a story about Emmy who wants to be a war corespondent but lands a job at a women's magazine where she secretly answers the letters that the editor considers Unpleasantness.

I laughed and cried following Emmy and her friend Bunty through London where even a date at the nicest restaurant in town might end in a tragic bombing. They try to cheerfully "do their bit" while looking for love and surviving misunderstandings in their friendship. I enjoyed the great English accent on the audio book. There is a small bit of swearing, but the romance doesn't go further than a kiss on the doorstep.

Do you have a favorite book set in World War 2?


  1. You might also consider reading "The War That Saved My Life" and its sequel, "The War I Finally Won." Both are about children displaced during the London bombing raids during WWII and their search for a new life and safety and love. Typified as young adult or pre-teen, they resonated with me as an adult too.

    1. I loved The War that Saved My Life - except that one of the main characters has a deceased gay partner. It was subtle enough that a child probably wouldn't pick it up, but it makes me so mad that I won't recommend it. I know this is a common problem now in recently published books.

    2. You know when I read these books I actually did not catch that it was so subtle. It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the sequel that I realized this. I did love the books, though. But do understand your not recommending them.

  2. I think this is the 4th time "All the Light We Cannot See" has been put in front of me in the last 2 months. My curiosity is growing!

  3. Thanks for this list! My library has all of them, and I'm looking forward to trying them all. I also like "Enemy Brothers," which I think I may have read about on your blog. Also, "The Hiding Place," "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit," and "Number the Stars." The Melendy Quartet series is a great series that is set during WWII, but the war plays only a gentle backdrop to the story - it's not in the forefront. "Goodnight, Mister Tom" used to be one of my all-time favorite books, but as an adult, I now find it horrifyingly anti-Christian (which, as a book, I didn't see). Looking forward to seeing others' suggestions!

  4. Are any of the books here super traumatic? (I'm super sensitive to trauma, but I love a good read.)

    1. I am rather careful about that too. I don't like to read books that leave images that I wish I could scrub off my mind. To me these three were okay, but I know that everyone has a different sensitivity to such things.

  5. I enjoy (not sure that's the right word) reading and learning about World War 11 and the horrible devastation. I have a lot of books on my shelf from that time, but my latest one I enjoyed was In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke. Some day I would like to go to Poland, Germany, Normandy Beach, etc.
    If you were my neighbor, I'd tell you to raid my shelf!

  6. Oh wonderful list!
    I’ve read All The Light on Scribd audiobook. I loved it.
    I will do the audiobook for Dear Mrs Bird and since I couldn’t find What The Night Sings at my libraries, after reading your review and others I’m going to order my own.

    I do love reading WW2 books also. Two of my favorites that I’ve read not listed here are The Hiding Place and The Endless Steppes.
    I also loved Forty Autumns on audiobook although it is about East Germany from the time directly following WW2 until the 1980s when the Berlin Wall came down. A fascinating memoir. Another East Germany audiobook was A Night Divided I really enjoyed it also.

    One I’ve not read yet that might be good is The Zoo Keepers Wife. It’s on my list of want to read.

  7. I recommend "Things We Couldn't Say" by Diet Eman. She and her husband aided the Resistance in the Netherlands during WWII. Also, "Evidence Not Seen" by Darlene Deibler Rose, an American missionary who was put ina Japanese prison camp in New Guinea.

  8. Whoops, that was me in the comment from "Mr. West".

  9. Gina, all three recommendations looks excellent. I would go through all the books. As you mentioned it is really difficult to read through the harrowing experiences of war, but that makes the story even more charming. ‘The diary of Anne Frank’, is the only world war book I have read. The little joys amidst the pain while living in hiding and cute love stories must be the factors that make the wartime worth reading.

  10. Thanks for your recommendations, Gina. We have a similar taste in books and I always enjoy your suggestions. I am also homeschooling my six children similar in ages to yours so your suggestions always work for us too. :-) I recently read The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy, which is also set in World War II, and loved it. I don't know if you have read her books, but she was Hungarian-American so it's very interesting to read her books set in Hungary for a bit of a different perspective on the wars - still showing how awful they were but coming at it from a different angle.


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