My Favorite Historical Fiction Novels About WWI & WWII

I often share about my favorite books; and as I read a LOT of books I have lots of favorites.  One genre I tend to read more than others is historical fiction novels.  I am particularly fascinated by those that take place during the first and second world wars with an emphasis on female characters.  Here are some of my all time favorite World War I &II novels.



1. Nightingale by Kristin Hannah-- Vianne is left alone at her farmhouse when her husband heads off to the front lines.  When the Nazi's invade Vianne is left with little choice but to share her home with a German Captain. Her sister Isabelle joins the resistance, risking her life over and over. These two sisters often have clashing ideals, but both are trying to survive and save not only a piece of themselves but of the country they once loved.



2.  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult-- This book is actually a few stories woven into one long one.  One of the main stories is about Sage, a baker who works at night preparing breads and pastries for the shop she works in.  She befriends Josef Weber at a grief support group and despite HUGE differences in their ages they become friends. One thing I liked about this book was that it actually told about the war from the view of a Nazi SS Officer.



3.  Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly-- Set during World War II this book was amazing.  Seriously AMAZING!  Three young women; a polish girl who ends up in a Nazi work camp, the woman doctor who works at the camp, and a New York socialite working for the French consulate during World War II.  Their stories weave together and I was simply stunned to read the author's note in the back and realize that while this was a historical fiction book the characters and events were REAL!!  I just LOVED it!!




4. The Things We Cannnot Say by Kelly Rimmer-A fantastic WWII novel.  I was hooked with both the story lines and could not wait to see how they intersected.  Alice is in present day Florida dealing with a son who is on the Autism Spectrum and is non-verbal, her grandmother is in the hospital and has lost her ability to speak with her recent stroke.  Alina is growing up in Poland, near the German border and though there are whispers of a possible Nazi invasion no one believes their army is any match for the Polish government-- until the night of the first attack.  This was one of those books I just could not put down and while I kept guessing what was coming next I was occasionally wrong.  I really enjoyed the twists and turns and the author's notes in the back of the book.



5.  The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff-When Grace finds an abandoned suitcase in NYC Grand Central Station one morning she opens it to find a packet of photos. She then embarks on a hunt to track down the story of these women.  Told from multiple viewpoints this book was all about a network of female secret agents working in occupied Paris during WWII. 




6.  The Alice Network by Kate Quinn- Charlie St Claire is looking for her lost cousin in the after math of World War II and the only name she has to go by is Eve Gardiner.  But Eve has been battling her own demons since serving in a spy agency known as the Alice Network during the first world war.  Just two key words in Claire's story prompt Eve to help and together they set off to find the truth.  A compelling story told in alternating voices and time zones.




7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr-- Marie- Laure is a blind girl living in Paris with her father.  When the German occupation of Paris looms on the horizon, her father takes her to live with family in another part of France with orders to safeguard one of the Museum's most prized possessions. Werner is an orphaned German boy living in a coal mining town.  When he shows real talent with working on radios and with complex mathematical equations he's enlisted to help the Nazi army track down insurgents who are broadcasting coordinates and information to one another over secret networks.  Seeing how their stories and experiences were interwoven was quite interesting.




8.   In His Father's Footsteps by Danielle Steel-- A poignant mutli-generational story.  When Jakob and Emmanuelle are liberated from a concentration camp they make the decision to marry and move to America together.  Making their way slowly up from nothing they start a wonderful new life for themselves and their son.  Their son, Max, attends Harvard and begins to blossom as a business tycoon eventually choosing a rich young heiress as his wife.  But when his wife leaves him to raise the kids all on his own he's determined to struggle and persevere following in his father's footsteps; though this novel has little focus on the war and concentration camp it's interesting to see how their ordeal shaped not only their lives but their son's life as well.




9.  The Huntress by Kate Quinn-- After reading The Alice Network, I just knew I had to give The Huntress a try and I am so glad I did!  It was another amazing book.  In post WWII Ian, Tony and Nina are trying to hunt down Nazi's who have gone into hiding; focusing on one main woman known only as "the Huntress."  Meanwhile, 19 year old Jordan, is growing up in Boston with her father when she begins to have unsettling feelings about her soon to be new step-mother.  While seemingly perfectly nice on the outside Anneliese may be covering up something more than just a sad past.  I thought I knew almost right away how all these stories were going to come together but there were many plot twists that kept me gasping and turning pages until the very end.  I simply devoured the Author's note in the back too and learned so much about both WWII and the post war era.



10. Salt to the Sea by Rupa Sepetys-- This novel follows 4 young adults as they are trying to flee warn torn countries at the end of World War II during at time the Russians are battling back the Germans.  These 4 find themselves becoming friends and they all end up on the same ship... I can't say more than that without giving away major points of the story but I can say that the author's note in the back was really enlightening!  I had ever heard about the role of the Baltic states and the Baltic sea in the war.



11. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah-- Meredith and Nina have always found their mother to be a rather cold and disapproving woman.  When their father falls ill he makes them promise to listen to their mother's Russian fairy tale one last time-- making his wife promise to finish the story all the way to the end.  What entails is a heart wrenching story of their mother's life in war torn Leningrad.



12.  The Award by Danielle Steel-- Gaelle is just a 16 when the Germans begin occupying France.  Her brother and father are shot and her mother quite simply looses her mind.  Left to fend for herself Gaelle takes terrifying risks working for the resistance.  However, those in her own town think her to be collaborating with the enemy and that label follows her for most of her adult life... until her own granddaughter, a journalist, uncovers the true story of Gaelle's life.



13.  Between Shades of Gray by Rupa Sepetys-- A great book that finally talks about the Russian work camps.  A young Lithuanian girl and her family are taken away by the Russian police and forced for work in Siberia for 10 yeas!  Make sure you read  the author's note in the back; I learned so much about a part of history that no one seems to have talked about before.  




14. The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy-- Harriet finds herself in Paris working in the same building her grandmother worked in during WWII.  As she begins her new job she learns more about her grandmother and what life was like during the war.  Told from multiple points of view and different times it was a great story.



15.   Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly-- I loved Lilac girls so much that when I saw the Lost Roses book I just knew I had to read it.  Set a generation and a war previous to Lilac Girls we learn about Eliza Ferriday and her Russian friends during World War I.  I had no idea that Russia was basically fighting two wars at the same time-- one against Germany alongside the allies and one within.  It was a great book and was also based on the real life story of Eliza.



Do you have any other favorites you'd recommend?  Next up on my list to read are We Were the Lucky Ones and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Linking Up With: Mid-week linkup, Morning Cup of Joe,













Comments

  1. Wow- I am inspired by all of your reading! I see a WWII theme here this month too :)

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    1. It is such a fascinating time in history.

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  2. I love historical fiction and this is a wonderful list. Have you read In A Field of Blue? It is such a beautiful love story! Have a wonderful week!

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    1. I have not; I'll have to add that to my list.

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  3. I haven't read any of these books, but when I was a child my favorite book was "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry. It is still a favorite for me. It takes place during World War II, and it's about a girl helping her Jewish friend and family. I need to check out some of these books - if I can ever find time to read for myself.

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    1. I read that book last year with my boys and just loved it!

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  4. Great list! I have read a few of them. I have Lost Girls of Paris, need to read that one! Another one by her, The Orphan's Tale, is also about WWII.

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    1. Yes, I had heard of the Orphan's Tale and had that on my list too.

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  5. I finished The Nightingale last year and I loved it so much. I have a few of these others on my list, too. I can only read heavy books every so often, though. I usually try to stick to light!

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    1. I completely agree! I often break up the heavy/sad books with something light and cheerful in-between.

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  6. I just added several of these to my book pile, historical fiction is my favorite after nonfiction reading.

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  7. Adding some of these to my reading list. I can only read one or two WW books before I need to take a break - they just are so heavy! But also so good!

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    1. I definitely feel the same way. They are so good but so heavy and I can only handle them in small doses.

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  9. All of these sound pretty amazing. I've definitely added some to my TBR list, in particular Lilac Girls and Lost Roses. Thanks for linking up to #bookwormsmonthly

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    1. Lilac girls was amazing; I still want to visit the Ferriday house and gardens in Ct now that I've read the book.

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  10. Have only read 5 of these. Glad to have this bibliography of your favorites. I thought Lilac Girls was amazing, too. In fact, it is one of my favorite books. My online book club just voted to read The German Girl by Correa for our March book. Come join us!!

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    1. Oooh; that sounds like a good book. I'd love to join you!

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  11. Wow, quite a list!
    I think I will start by looking for a copy of The Storyteller, the Lost Girls of Paris, and The Award :)

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  12. I love this genre and I have several of these but have yet to read them.

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    1. I find I can only read so many of them before I need to read something lighter and fun.

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  13. I can't read WWII books often. I've had The Nightingale and Salt to the Sea unread for years. I'll get to them but I have to space them far out.

    The Storyteller, Winter Garden, Lilac Girls, and The Huntress were all well done.

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    1. I can only read them one at a time and I typically need to read a few cheery books in-between.

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  14. Fabulous reviews. I just sent your link to a friend that enjoy historical fiction. Have a good week!

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  15. I love WWII books. I thought I'd read Winter Garden years ago, but now I don't recognize your summary. LOL Guess I need to read it again!

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    1. LOL. I hate when that happens... or when I'm reading a story and it sounds vaguely familiar to where I can predict just about everything that's going to happen right before it does and I'm pretty sure I must have read it before but still can't remember how it ends!

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  16. I've read most of these and love HF too! Here are a few REALLY good ones that are not talked about much! Once you read them you will wonder why too. So good!!!!
    1. It Happened In Italy
    2. Dragonfly
    3. Cilka's Journey

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    1. Isn't Cilka's Journey a sequel of sorts to the Tattoo Artist of Auschwitz? Thanks for the recommendations; I'll add them all to my list.

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