With children out of school and folks going on vacation, summer is traditionally
the time for blockbuster movies, usually action-adventure or comic-book-hero
sagas designed to snag the interest of kids and families. Then there are
“blockbuster books”—novels that strike the popular imagination and become
Though I tend not to like those extremely popular books, since several are set
in one of my favorite time periods—World War II—for this month’s column, we’ll
take a look at a few that have garnered rave reviews.
First we have ALL THE LIGHT
WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (24,150
Amazon reviews.) This instant New York Times bestseller from the
award-winning Doerr presents the story of a blind French girl and a German boy
who meet in occupied France, both struggling to survive the destruction and
privation of war.
Daughter of a lockmaster at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, when
Marie-Laure goes blind at the age of six, her father builds her a miniature of
their neighborhood to memorize by touch so she can find her away around. When
she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and she flees with her father to take
refuge with a great-uncle in a house by the sea in the walled city of
Saint-Malo. To protect it from falling into enemy hands, they bring with them
from the museum a valuable and dangerous gem.
Orphan Werner grows up in Germany, fascinated by radios. Having become an expert
in building and repairing the machine that war makes essential, he wins an
appointment to a science academy for Hitler Youth, where he is trained to use
his skills to track members of the resistance. Increasingly agonized by the fate
of the people he uncovers, he eventually is sent to Saint-Malo, where his fate
and Marie-Laue’s collide.
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the
beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a
blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as
both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural
History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is
six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their
neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she
is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled
citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall
house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable
and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger
sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at
building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a
place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track
the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence,
Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where
his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San
Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of
Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to
be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot
See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences
never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).
Historical [Scribner, On Sale: May 6, 2014,
Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781476746586 / eISBN: 9781476746609]
Another run-away hit was THE
NIGHTINGALE by Kristin
Hannah. (An Amazon pick of the month it debuted, considered one of the five
best books of the year, finalist on numerous award lists, 27,020 Amazon
reviews.) Farmed out to strangers by their father, who came back forever changed
after World War I, sisters Vianne and Isabelle strike out on different paths.
Older Vianne fits herself into life in the quiet village of Carriveau, while
younger, rebellious Isabelle is shunted from one boarding school to the next.
Expelled from the last one just as World War II begins, she returns to Paris and
her father—who sends her back to her sister. Borne along with the tide of
refugees fleeing the German advance, Isabelle falls instantly in love with
Gäetan, a partisan intent on joining the resistance. Rejected by him as too
young, naïve and impulsive to join the movement, he forces her to continue on to
Vianne, who has sent her beloved husband off with the French army, wants only to
try to make life as safe and normal as possible for her daughter. But when the
Germans occupy first their village, then her house, she is compelled to send her
sister back to Paris so her resentful, openly antagonistic attitude toward the
invaders will not endanger them. Their paths diverge once again, Isabelle
finding her way to prominence in the Resistance, Vianne grimly holding on
through increasing privation and indignity, determined to make it through to a
war’s end that brings both reconciliation and heartbreak.
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her
husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn't believe that the Nazis
will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in
caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon
the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne's home, she and her
daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or
hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible
choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching
for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians
march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes
the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only
the young can … completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the
Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah
captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history
seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters,
separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each
embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in
German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that
celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is
a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
Historical [St. Martin's Press, On Sale:
February 3, 2015, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780312577223 / eISBN:
Moving Tribute To The Brave Women Who Fought In Different Ways In Occupied
young brave sisters achieve the love and respect for each other while fighting
for their country
Recommended to readers who enjoyed the first two novels, LILAC GIRLS: A NOVEL by Martha Hall Kelly has
already garnered 978 Amazon reviews. Loosely based on the real life of New York
socialite Caroline Ferriday, the story alternates between first-person
narratives by Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick (a composite of some of the real women
imprisoned at Ravensbruck) and Herta Oberheuser (a real Nazi doctor at
Ravensbruck) as unfolding events bring them toward their fateful meeting.
The light-hearted social round that is Caroline’s life as an employee of the
French consulate takes a sober turn in the fall of 1939 with Hitler’s invasion
of Poland and threat against France. Alarmed and concerned about the innocents
caught up in war, she begins to seek new ways to help.
Polish teenager Kasia Kuzmerick reacts to the Nazi invasion by becoming a
courier for the resistance. Under the close scrutiny of the German occupiers and
fearful neighbors, each day brings new threats.
A young female doctor in Germany, Herta Oberheuser sees her hiring for a
government medical position as a chance to prove herself in a male-dominated
world, little knowing the extremes to which loyalty to her country and her
superiors will push her.
From the glamour of high-society New York to Paris, war-torn Germany and
occupied Poland, the story weaves together the lives of these three women, until
in the years after the war, Caroline and Kasia seek to bring justice and healing
to the many innocents who suffered under Nazi domination. The courage and
resilience of those women shine out from the misery to which they were
subjected, leaving most readers uplifted by the strength of the bonds humans
build to tolerate and survive impossible situations.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of The
Nightingale and Sarah’s Key, inspired by the life of a real World War
II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to
change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the
French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever
changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its
sights on France.
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her
carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for
the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and
suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a
government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired,
though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the
unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi
concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to
Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to
those whom history has forgotten.
Women's Fiction | Women's Fiction
Historical [Ballantine Books, On Sale: April 5,
2016, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781101883075 / eISBN: 9781101883068]
EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN by Chris Cleave (an
Amazon Best Book of the Month for May 2016, already 323 Amazon reviews) also
uses the stuff of real lives (in this case, the love letters of his
grandparents) to create a vivid picture of London and Malta from 1939-1942.
Privileged daughter of a wealthy member of Parliament, when war is declared,
eighteen-year-old Mary North defies her family’s expectations that she complete
finishing school and marry, and volunteers at the war office. Instead of the
glamorous job as a general’s aide or spy she envisions, she finds herself
becoming a teacher to those whose color or disabilities prevented their being
accepted by families in the countryside when London’s children are evacuated.
Through her job, she becomes involved with Tom Shaw, an educator tasked with
maintaining the empty London schools. While persuading him to find her a school
for her misfits, with her beauty, courage and optimism, she enchants him.
Tom’s roommate, Alistair Heath, an art restorer from the proper class, enlists
in the army, where he serves first in France, and after Dunkirk, in Malta. The
drama of both war and personal life collide when Mary and Alistair meet, and Tom
watches his best friend fall for the woman he wants. The passion, deception and
jealousy of a this love triangle set against the vast stage of war and
destruction makes the story by turns sweepingly broad and completely intimate.
The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing
school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.
Shaw decides to ignore the war—until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has
unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided.
Young, bright, and brave, Mary is certain she’d be a marvelous spy. When she
is—bewilderingly—made a teacher, she finds herself defying prejudice to protect
the children her country would rather forget.
Tom, meanwhile, finds that
he will do anything for Mary.
And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is
love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined,
entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception,
inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.
Set in London during the
years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory;
and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis
barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a
perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris
Cleave’s grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against
the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles,
the daily human triumphs that change us most.
Historical [Simon & Schuster, On Sale: May 3, 2016, Hardcover /
e-Book, ISBN: 9781501124372 / eISBN: 9781501124402]
Are any of these blockbusters for you? Have a read, and decide!
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from
Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and
back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family's East Texas
homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an
English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the
summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen's Regency
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit
her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a
mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing
Series: Regency Silk & Scandal | Hadley’s Hellions | Ransleigh Rogues
Leader of Hadley’s Hellions, a group of outsiders who bond together at Oxford
vowing to reform Society, Giles Hadley wants nothing to do with the earl, his
father who banished him, or his stepbrother George, who is the bane of his
existence. But he’s curious about the woman rumor says George is to marry,
daughter and political hostess of prominent Tory Lord Witlow.
part, Lady Maggie finds angry rebel Giles far more fascinating than George—so
fascinating, that though she has no intention of risking her heart after losing
her beloved husband, she might just be tempted into an affair…
Buy FORBIDDEN NIGHTS WITH THE
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