This past year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.
All the Light We Cannot See
Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!
Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.
Once There Was a War
The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.
If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!