World War II Books (Mostly Fiction)

I have been on a World War II “era” reading kick for months now. I am partial to fiction and certainly more fluff than reality. I think I like the feeling of the time, definitely not the horrid reality of what many went through during the war. In particular, I like books that are set either in the US or in England.

I thought I would compile a list of some of the books I have read recently…The two I would recommend most highly would be Unbroken and Coming Home, the former for harsh reality the latter for more of a light read.

If you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments!
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Mrs. Tuesday's Departure Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure – Suzanne Anderson 
(From Amazon.com)
When Natalie and Anna, sisters and life-long rivals, hide an abandoned child from the Nazis, their deception resurrects the scars of a star-crossed love triangle that threats their safety and tests the bonds of their loyalty.

Hungary’s fragile alliance with Germany insured that Natalie, a renowned children’s book author, and her family would be safe as the war raged through Europe. But, as the Führer’s desperation grows in the waning years of the conflict, neighbors now become traitors.

Beautiful but troubled Anna, poet and university professor, is losing her tenuous hold on reality, re-igniting a sibling rivalry that began with a poetry contest in childhood. It boils over when Deszo, Anna’s unrequited love, re-enters their lives with a promise of safety.

Interwoven with Natalie and Anna’s story, is Mila’s. The abandoned child whose future Natalie lovingly imagines in a story called Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure.

A story that takes on a life of its own fifty years later.

Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure is a haunting tale of un-requited love and the un-breakable bonds of sisters.
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Dream When You’re Feeling Blue – Elizabeth Berg
(description from Amazon)
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg takes us to Chicago at the time of World War II in this wonderful story about three sisters, their lively Irish family, and the men they love.
As the novel opens, Kitty and Louise Heaney say good-bye to their boyfriends Julian and Michael, who are going to fight overseas. On the domestic front, meat is rationed, children participate in metal drives, and Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller play songs that offer hope and lift spirits. And now the Heaney sisters sit at their kitchen table every evening to write letters–Louise to her fiancé, Kitty to the man she wishes fervently would propose, and Tish to an ever-changing group of men she meets at USO dances. In the letters the sisters send and receive are intimate glimpses of life both on the battlefront and at home. For Kitty, a confident, headstrong young woman, the departure of her boyfriend and the lessons she learns about love, resilience, and war will bring a surprise and a secret, and will lead her to a radical action for those she loves. The lifelong consequences of the choices the Heaney sisters make are at the heart of this superb novel about the power of love and the enduring strength of family.
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The Time In Between cover.png The Time In Between – Maria Duenas
(description from Amazon)
The inspiring New York Times bestseller of a seemingly ordinary woman who uses her talent and courage to transform herself first into a prestigious couturier and then into an undercover agent for the Allies during World War II.Between Youth and Adulthood . . .At age twelve, Sira Quiroga sweeps the atelier floors where her single mother works as a seamstress. By her early twenties she has learned the ropes of the business and is engaged to a modest government clerk. But then everything changes.

Between War and Peace . . .

With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira impetuously follows her handsome new lover to Morocco, but soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken. She reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: creating beautiful clothes.

Between Love and Duty . . .

As World War II begins, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she is the preeminent couturiere for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives. She becomes embroiled in a half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal. A massive bestseller across Europe, The Time In Between is one of those rare, richly textured novels that enthrall down to the last page. MarÍa DueÑas reminds us how it feels to be swept away by a masterful storyteller.
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Breaking the Code: A Daughter's Journey into Her Father's Secret War
Breaking the Code – Karen Fisher-Alaniz
(description from Amazon)
Our parents are our most unexplored mystery.

Whether close or distant to us, we see them as “parent,” rarely knowing or thinking about the person that they are outside that role. So few of us get to discover that person inside, even if it may be just a question away.

Like many, Karen grew up with a father who was always there and yet always absent. As a little girl and then an adult, she talked to him, but they never really had a conversation. He’d told her stories of his childhood and of his time in the Navy, but she’d barely listened.

But on his 81st birthday, without explanation, her father placed two weathered notebooks on her lap, with more than 400 pages of letters he’d written to his parents during World War II. The more she read, the more she discovered about the man she never knew and the secret role he played in the war.

Thus began an unintended journey – one taken by a father and daughter who thought they knew each other, a journey of healing and discovery that started with a leap of faith.
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 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
(description from Amazon)
In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
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The Odessa FileThe Odessa File – Frederick Forsyth

(description from Amazon)
The  suicide of an elderly German Jew explodes into  revelation after revelation: of a Mafia-like  organization called Odessa …of a real-life fugitive known as the  “Butcher of Riga”..of a young German journalist  tumed obsessed avenger…….and, ultimately, of brilliant, ruthless plot  to reestablish the worldwide power of SS mass  murderers and to carry out Hitler’s chilling  “Final Solution.”
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Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
(description from Amazon)
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
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The Land Girls – Angela Huth
(description from Amazon)
With the country’s men at war, it falls to the land girls to pitch in and do their bit…Stella arrives at Hallows Farm in her Rayon stockings, having just waved goodbye to the love of life – naval officer Philip. Agatha has just graduated from Cambridge; life on the Farm is certainly going to offer her a different kind of education. Prue, a hairdresser from Manchester, is used to painting the town red, not manual labour. Joe dreams of leaving the family farm and becoming a fighter pilot. But with the arrival of these three beautiful young women, there’s enough to keep him busy on the farm for the time being…Work is hard and the effects of war start to take their toll on the three women. But as the bonds of friendship start to form and excitement builds as the RAF dance looms, maybe life in the countryside isn’t so bad after all?
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Letters from Home – Kristina McMorris
(description from Amazon)
Liz Stephen’s life changes when she meets infantryman Morgan McClain at a Chicago USO club. Liz has long expected to marry her childhood friend, Dalton, yet her instant attraction to Morgan is mutual. But when she misinterprets Morgan’s chivalrous rescue of her friend Betty, she flees without explanation. When Betty begins corresponding with Morgan, she asks for Liz’s help. Soon, Morgan and Liz, under Betty’s alias, are exchanging soul-baring letters. Betty, serving in the Woman’s Army Corps, finds unexpected romance of her own, as does Liz’s engaged best friend Julia. But as the war ends, each woman faces the repercussions of her choices. Inspired by the true story of her grandparents’ epistolary courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in a story that is timeless, tender, and unforgettably moving.
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Bridge of Scarlet Letters – Kristina McMorris
(description from Amazon)
Los Angeles. 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.
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Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky
(description from Amazon)
Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.
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Cover When the Emperor Was Divine – Julie Otsuka
(description from the publisher’s website)
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.
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Coming Home – Rosamunde Pilcher
(description from Amazon)
Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman’s coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home…

In 1935, Judith Dunbar is left behind at a British boarding school when her mother and baby sister go off to join her father in Singapore. At Saint Ursula’s, her friendship with Loveday Carey-Lewis sweeps her into the privileged, madcap world of the British aristocracy, teaching her about values, friendship, and wealth. But it will be the drama of war, as it wrenches Judith from those she cares about most, that will teach her about courage…and about love.

Teeming with marvelous, memorable characters in a novel that is a true masterpiece, Coming Home is a book to be savored, reread, and cherished forever.
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
(description from Amazon)
January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

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2 responses to “World War II Books (Mostly Fiction)”

  1. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) says :

    I agree with your recommendation of Unbroken and liked the Guernsey book too. I would recommend Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys if you haven’t read it yet – it’s a post WWII novel about a Lithuanian girl that I think you would like. Also, We All Wore Stars by Theo Coster, a collection of WWII experiences from the classmates of Anne Frank. Another nonfiction is Resistance by Agnes Humbert – a journal of a woman in the French Resistance and then the account of her time in prison. And finally, one I’m assuming you’ve probably already read, but have to recommend just in case – The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

    • ittybittyblog says :

      Thanks Alyce! I haven’t heard of Between Shades of Grey, I’ll add it to my list. I have We All Wore Stars and Resistance on my paperbackswap wishlist…And I have read The Hiding Place, it is amazing!

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