It's been a long time since I've read a couldn't-put-down book. Sure, some of the assigned reading in school was interesting, but certainly not as gripping and thoroughly consuming as a good novel can be. (Sorry Plato.) This past summer I've been reacquainted with a genre that speaks to my old soul and transports me to another place. Historical fiction is officially my favorite genre at the moment, particularly novels set during World War II and the post-WWII era. Some of the most pain-fraught years in world history have inspired incredible stories that tug at your heart and really stay with you. It can be difficult to even fathom the atrocities of WWII and the incomparable evil present in that time. I think it is so important to remember what happened, that we acknowledge the events of history with the gravity they deserve.
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. ~ Marcus Garvey
Here are some memorable reads to take you back in time...
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This charming story of a peculiarly named book club in Guernsey, an English Channel island that had been occupied by German forces. Juliet, a writer in London, begins exchanging letters with members of the literary society. The book is composed entirely of letters, between Juliet and her publishers and the people of Guernsey. It's beautifully written, and the characters' correspondence offers surprising insight to their personalities. Juliet learns a great deal about life in occupied Guernsey, which inspires her to write a book. Things get especially good when she goes to visit her new friends on the island.
Also, I am dying to see the movie of this, which stars Lily James (Downton Abbey) and Michiel Huisman (Age of Adaline). Maybe the library has it by now...
The Lilac Girls
by Martha Hall Kelly
This book follows the lives of three women from 1939 to well after the war. Caroline Ferriday is an New York socialite who works at the French consulate, sending care packages to children in France. Meanwhile in Germany, Herta Oberheuser, is just beginning her medical career. Desperate to escape her desolate life and to get ahead in a male-dominated field, she accepts a position as a doctor at Ravensbrück. In Poland, a teenage girl named Kasia becomes involved in an underground resistance movement following the Nazi invasion. She is soon arrested for her suspicious actions and sent to Ravensbrück, along with the other women in her family. I've probably given too much already, so I'll just conclude by saying it's absolutely a must-read.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
The USA Today review doesn't exaggerate when it says Book Thief "deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank." Markus Zusak made a daring choice of narrator for this book; it is told from the perspective of Death. This may seem strange when you begin reading, but it soon becomes clear that Death is perhaps the most appropriate narrator for a wartime story.
I highly recommend The Book Thief movie as well. An excellent production.
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
My list of suggested books would be hopelessly incomplete without this classic. I read Anne Frank when I was in middle school, so rather close in age to Anne herself. It was so profound to learn about a young Jewish girl and her family, whose lives were changed in terrifying ways, as they were forced to live in hiding from the Nazis. I was left with a stunned, empty feeling as I read the last pages.
What is your favorite book genre lately? Please do share in the comments!
'Til next time,