World War II Books That Transport You
Over the last few years, authors have created new and atypical stories that make me want to read more about World War II. Here are a few of my favorite stories that show different perspectives of the war—the correspondence between a Japanese boy and Parisian Girl pen pal, a German girl in an internment camp, a Polish girl hiding Jews in her attic, and a woman that established vast spy networks in France.
This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda
Ten-year-old Alex Maki, a Japanese American boy, becomes pen pals with Charlie Levy, a Parisian Jewish girl in 1935. They continue to write and we get to know the struggles they are going though during the war. Alex ends up in an internment camp, and Charlie discusses the restrictions and laws placed on Jews by the Nazis. They continue to hold onto the letters and memories of their developing relationship throughout the story. Nothing can dispel the light between them.
I really liked the relationship of these two characters and how the two completely different stories wove together. Although Charlie is a main character, this story does focus more on Alex’s story. We get to see him join the military and become a solider.
It is a very emotional story, and once I started the book I could not put it down.
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
Elise Sontag is a typical fourteen-year-old Iowan in 1943, until her father is arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer and the family is sent to an internment camp in Texas. Elise makes a friend at the internment camp, Mariko Inoue. Together these two girls hold tight to the dream of a future beyond the fences.
I really liked the friendship of these two girls. For me, the last half of the book is better than the first half—once their friendship is established. Then other forces begin to stand in the way of that friendship. I usually am not a huge fan of books that bounce back and forth between two periods, but with this one I felt a connection with both time periods.
The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron
The heroism in this historical fiction book about Polish teenager Stefania Podgorska who hid thirteen Jews in her attic during World War II is simply amazing. I loved that this was a true story and historical information about the story can easily be referenced in the back of the book. If you want the narrative to be a surprise, don’t do what I did and read that part first! It really brings to light the family aspect of the war, focusing on the Jewish Diamant family and Stefania the Catholic girl who works in their family-owned grocery store.
When the war comes to her town everything changes. The Diamants are sent to the ghetto, and Stefania is left alone in an occupied city to care for her young sister alone. Then, Max, one of the brothers of the family, knocks on the door having jumped from a trained headed to a death camp. Stefania and her sister decide to take Max in and hide him. Gradually, hiding 12 others Jews as well.
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell
A non-fiction book that reads like fiction, this book is about Virginia Hall, the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines. She established vast spy networks throughout France until she was forced to escape when her cover was blown. But she returned and helped liberate parts of France after D-day.
Fighting through the adversity of sexism and having a prosthetic leg, Virginia became an amazing hero. This story was engaging from beginning to end. I couldn’t believe it was non-fiction with all the things that Virginia accomplished. It is a must-read, especially for fans of Erik Larson.
Other World War 2 novels I recommend:
- The Splendid and The Vile By Erik Larson
- The Plum Tree By Ellen Marie Wiseman
- Underground in Berlin: A Young Woman's Extraordinary Tale of Survival in the Heart of Nazi Germany by Marie Jalowicz Simon
- The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
- The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe