Happy Tuesday Everyone! I was home sick yesterday and in between napping I worked on some blog posts. I finished Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave which is set during World War II and the review will be posted shortly. Before it is posted however, I want to pay my respect to World War II novels and the writers who tell the stories of the terrible tragedy that was the Holocaust. I have a large interest in World War II historical fiction. I have read so many novels set during the Holocaust and this time period that I have lost count (Thank goodness for Good Reads which tracks them all). The really good stories stick with me like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Night by Elie Wisel, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. These stories tell the horrors of this time period with a grace and remembrance rather than exploit the tragedy. My brain cannot wrap its head around what happened during this time in our worlds history which I think is why I find it so important to read these stories. While I am intrigued reading the tales of what people did to survive and remember those who were lost, I truly believe that I read these stories to pay my respects to everyone who lived through this time, those who died and those who helped liberate the victims. The novels listed above are some of the best. On the flip side there are some I’ve read that miss their mark. The two I can name off the top of my head are The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. All The Light quickly moved to the top of my list when I saw the praise it was receiving. It is a story about a blind French girl and German boy whose paths collide during World War II. I didn’t dislike the portions about Marie-Laure (the blind French girl), I just wasn’t that interested. On the other hand I really enjoyed Werner’s portion. Werner is an orphan who grows up in the Hitler youth and later becomes key in seeking out resistance fighters using radio signals. It was such a different perspective that I hadn’t read before. I was thoroughly disappointed in the ending which I won’t spoil, but will say that it was a major let down. After reading The Nightingale however, I realized that All The Light was no comparison. I have heard in a few reading circles that most readers who have read both, prefer one over the other. For me, The Nightingale definitely is my first choice. It was the best book I read in 2015 by leaps and bounds. The writing was beautiful, but the story was tragic and yet I enjoyed every minute of it. If you are interested in this genre of fiction, I highly recommend this as your next read. Currently I am reading an Advanced Copy of Among The Living by Jonathan Raab. So far it is fantastic! It is another take on the Holocaust told from the perspective of a Survivor who is trying to reintegrate into the world again. Below I will list my favorite World War II /Holocaust novels with their synopsis’ as well as links to Amazon for easy purchasing. Please let me know in the comments if you have read any of these or plan on doing so in the future!
Among The Living
By: Jonathan Raab
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2eePKRL
A moving novel about a Holocaust survivor’s unconventional journey back to a new normal in 1940s Savannah, Georgia In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives. They are Abe and Pearl Jesler, older, childless, and an integral part of the thriving Jewish community that has been in Georgia since the founding of the colony. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives–distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers’ dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak’s past suddenly appears–one who is even more shattered by the war than he is–Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life. Set amid the backdrop of America’s postwar south, Among the Living grapples with questions of identity and belonging, and steps beyond the Jewish experience as it situates Yitzhak’s story within the last gasp of the Jim Crow era. That he begins to find echoes of his recent past in the lives of the black family who work for the Jeslers–an affinity he does not share with the Jeslers themselves–both surprises and convinces Yitzhak that his choices are not as clear-cut as he might think.
By: Kristin Hannah
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2ebAPZt
Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
The Book Thief
By: Markus Zusak
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2e35OtC
*This one was especially interesting because it is told by “Death”. Sine Death was so prominent during that time, I thought it was genius that the author told the story using Death as a character.
The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
By: Jodi Picoult
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2e34BCR
*This book had an amazing plot twist that I never saw coming!
Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t. Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths to which we will go in order to keep the past from dictating the future.
By: Elie Weisel
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2e13rFc
*Oprah book club pick and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.
All The Light We Cannot See
By: Anthony Doerr
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2eeOGNG
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
The History of Love
By: Nicole Krauss
Click here to purchase…http://amzn.to/2ebB5rd
A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness.
Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn’t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book…Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of “extraordinary depth and beauty” (Newsday).