Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad
only to be handed over to a new enemy…”
Okay, this book
is also one of my absolute favourite World War II fiction novels. I have never
read anything like it…
Kate Breslin wrote
this story based on what happened to the Jews during World War II, and wove
pieces of the story of Esther from the Bible into it.
Please don’t let
that put you off… I haven’t read a book this well-thought out and with such a
clever plot line in a long time. In fact, I’ve read it twice…
The story follows
Hadassah as she becomes secretary to Aric von Schmidt, the SS Kommandant Colonel
at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. God may have brought
her to the camp for such a time as this.
I think I’ll stop
there… for fear of saying too much.
As said by New
York Times bestselling author, Susan Wiggs – “For Such a Time is an intimate
portrait painted on a grand scale, bringing to life the drama and pain of suffering
with the triumph and joy of freedom.”
I absolutely loved this book… I dare anyone to close the cover before reading the last suspenseful page
~ Debbie Macomber, New York Times bestselling author
I know… this
book title is a mouthful. But, oh my word, was this novel’s story absolutely beautiful.
It follows Juliet
Ashton, an author in search of a topic to write about at the end of the War.
She receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer on the Channel island of
Guernsey. And thus the story begins.
What I loved
about this novel was it taught me a side of World War II history that I actually
didn’t know about – the German occupation of the Channel islands. I didn’t even
know Guernsey existed, and now it’s on my bucket list.
Mary Ann Shaffer
and Annie Barrows wrote the novel through the letters and correspondences between
the characters. I loved this approach as it allowed me to get to know the
characters on a personal level and it allowed their personalities to really
shine through. By the end of the book, I had definitely made some new friends,
and I only wished that they were real people. In fact, I had to remind myself
that they were not.
This was a truly
inspiring novel for me to read, as well as was the story behind why it was
As the Daily Mail said, “You’d have to be
pretty hard-hearted not to fall under its spell.”
Funny story – the first time I even heard about this story was because I had watched the movie. I know, I know… how extremely controversial of me to watch the movie before reading the book… But I fell so in love with the story and its characters, as soon as I realised that it was a book, I went straight to my bookshop and ordered it. And I have now read it twice and watched the movie at least six times…
Atmospheric and touching… it is about love and friendship, and the ability of these qualities to survive adversity.
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
I kind of feel like ‘Sublime’ and ‘Magnificent’ from The Times and Guardian are the best one-word reviews of this book. But on the other hand, I feel like this book cannot be reviewed with only one word.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is one of the best World War II fiction novels I have read. And by far one of my absolute favourites…
The Washington Post sums up how I feel about this book quite nicely – “I’m not sure I will read a better novel this year… Enthrallingly told, beautiful written and so emotionally plangent that some of the passages bring tears.”
The story follows a blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a German orphan boy named Werner. It is a deeply moving novel that illuminates the ways, against all odds, that people try to be good to one another.
Anthony Doerr writes in such a beautiful and unique style that had me gripped from the very first page. He describes every little detail, from the point of view of Marie-Laure and all the other characters in a way that really let me live in their world.
I read some critiques say that his style of writing made the book long and exhausting to read… I counter that and say I am so glad that the book was not written in any other way. It allowed me to read the book slowly, taking in every detail.
I also enjoyed the alternately of chapters between Marie-Laure’s life and Werner’s life until their paths collide.
Okay, I think that’s enough… before I get ahead of myself and spoil something. But know that it is a bittersweet and moving novel that will linger in your mind.
“Readers can’t get enough World War II fiction,
and authors are happy to keep the books coming.”
How perfect is that ideal?
The article starts with a question – “What is with our love for… World War II stories?” Stephanie Merry wrote on one particular aspect to answer this. It’s an aspect I only dabbled with in my previous posts, so I figured why not share her point of view, along with my thoughts – that, and it comically suits my corner of the Internet perfectly.
Author Kate Quinn mentioned that “it’s a period of perennial fascination” because the War had such “a clearly defined villain and the battle between good and evil couldn’t be less ambiguous.”
It’s not easy to stand out in such a flooded field of literature. How do authors write about the same six years of history and stand out from each other? How do they keep the genre alive with so many compellingly different stories? This was honestly something I had never thought of… or linked to why we love historical fiction. Stephanie wrote that the key is finding some moment of history that hasn’t been completely raked over by academics and find a new perspective on the well-read territory.
This challenges and inspires authors to dig deeper into the archives of
World War II to find any small moment of its history and turn it into a story.
World War II had so many nooks and crannies of different perspectives,
different elements, different sides of the War that we’ll have a lifetime of novels
It’s interesting to think that from any one single moment between 1939 –
1945 one can write an entire novel. But then isn’t the truth being stretched?
It’s historical fiction, the truth is
allowed to be stretched. Yes, one of the reasons we read historical fiction is to
learn the history. But more important than that, it is to make these moments
matter, especially the ones that no one knew about, and to get lost in this
time of untold stories through people who never were.
Oh, a few novels were also mentioned in the article, if you want to have a look. They’re all 2019 novels that I haven’t managed to get just yet… but personally I’m excited about The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner!
You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.
Before we go wandering off into the past, maybe we should quickly look at what World War II fiction novels actually are, and why they are important and so compelling to read.
World War II fiction novels are ordinary fiction that use the War as a main theme or setting. I figured that’s pretty self-explanatory… but they can either focus on the War itself as the central story, or simply feature the War as a force that impacts the lives of the characters. What’s interesting is World War II fiction is a genre with so many nooks and crannies to explore, because World War II was such an extensive and deadly war.
What’s also interesting about World War II fiction is how it is written – authors find a snippet of the War’s history, and use that to write an entire novel. I love this about historical fiction. An author can find any bit of information, no matter how small, do some extra research, and then write an entire story based off it! Imagine all the possibilities for World War II fiction! There’s so many nooks and crannies, different perspectives, and so much more to discover and write about.
World War II fiction allows us to get lost in stories that show us what life was like during that time, and through these stories we can truly understand what people went through between 1939 and 1945. Reading historical fiction is the best way to confront history, because it not only makes it real, but it also makes it matter. Well, at least that’s how it started to matter to me.
Author Linda Kass once wrote, “Reading history allows us to understand what happened. Reading historical fiction allows us tobe moved by what happened.” She wrote that we tend to search for sense and meaning, even after we know the facts, because that is the essence of our humanity. The purpose of historical fiction is to “expose the reader to the inner lives of people across time and place, and in doing so illuminates history’s untold stories, allowing the reader to experience a more complex truth.”
And that is why it’s important
After all, didn’t George Santayana once quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And honestly, what better way is there to remember the past than by actually getting lost in it?
If that’s even a question, the answer is yes! Ab-so-lute-ly.
Someone who decided to remain anonymous once said, “I get sad
every time I hear a person say, ‘I don’t read.’ It’s like saying ‘I don’t learn’
or ‘I don’t laugh’ or ‘I don’t live.”
Alright, I am a quiet person whose idea of a fun Friday night is being curled up with a strong cup of tea and a good book (and chocolate is a strong possibility). I mean why would I want to do anything else? It’s quiet, I get to be alone without feeling lonely, I get to go to places I’ve never been before and back to times I could never go to, meet people I would never meet, laugh with them, cry with them, experience second-hand embarrassment because of them, and scream at them as they make wrong decisions.
For me, there is only a few things better than this. Than finding
a story that becomes more of a close friend than a book. Than opening a novel
and knowing an adventure awaits. Than getting comfortable with a cup of coffee,
and all you can smell is coffee and the pages of a book. If you read, you know what
I’m talking about. And if you don’t, stop reading this, go find a book, and
breathe in deep as you thumb the pages…
There is nothing like that moment when you read faster because
something shocking just happened, or re-reading something again and again because
it can’t be true, or closing the book smiling because something wonderful just or
finally happened. You feel and experience so much through these stories, that
there really is only a few things better than reading.
I do read other genres of novels, sometimes. If I find a good story… But historical fiction is my absolute favourite, especially if it is set in World War II. The funny thing is that I’m not actually one-hundred percent sure why… I have always loved history and the era around World War II was for some reason my favourite. I guess it fascinates and infuriates me the most. And for me, experiencing that era of history, learning about all the things that happened through different perspectives, and living it through people who never were, but could have possibly been, is probably the best explanation I can give for loving World War II fiction. For me, that is what this blog is all about – I want to review novels whose stories have come to mean so much to me, in hopes that you pick up a few to delve into.
Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
I didn’t want to be a complete stranger, so here’s a character for you to know me by. But why this, why me? I knew I wanted to be in the photo, but it also had to characterise what my little corner was all about. So, I went with this one. The stacks of books I’m holding are purposefully not showing any covers (I didn’t want to give away all the books in one photo). I’m wearing something a little more old-fashioned, with the watch and bracelets I’m known for. Then, I edited the photo to give it more of a vintage feel. The vintage feel of my blog (and outfit) is to give my corner of the Internet a World War II fiction vibe.
It was impossible to feel alone in a room full of favourite books.
I’m Tikvah Jesse, and this little corner of the Internet is where this twenty-something-year-old finds a place to share one of her many pastimes. I am currently finishing up my BA degree, and dreaming of the possibilities of my next chapter. I’ve always loved stories and that has drawn me to photography, reading, and writing. I’m a reader who takes photos and aspires to be a writer. World War II historical fiction is my absolute favourite genre, and that’s led me here. I hope you enjoy the process, and possibly find a novel that’s already found a place on my shelf.
All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they have never seen.
~ Roald Dahl
[Note: All photos on my blog where taken by me and belong to me. If you want to use any of the content, please ask permission before you do]