Hi everyone! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know it is the 80th anniversary of the start of World War Two this week. I’ve read quite a few books set between 1939 – 1945; perhaps because my grandparents were in the war I feel more connected to it in some way – or I’m just more interested in that period of history. I thought I would talk about 3 novels, as if I went through all the ones I’ve read then this blog post would be super long. And no one wants to hear me ramble for ages. But without further ado, let’s get into the books. I have left reviews to the books where I can.
- Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky
Though sadly unfinished – Némirovsky was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1942 – Suite Française is still a remarkable piece of work. Originally planned as five novels, only the first two were completed. While the first focuses on a handful of characters, the main plot in the second centres on Lucile Angellier, who lives in the French town of Bussy with her mother-in-law. German commander Bruno von Falk is billeted to their house as it is considered one of the grandest in the area and Lucile finds herself falling for Bruno as the other residents come to terms with the German Occupation. Némirovsky’s imagery is beautiful, capturing both the horror of war and the hope of this blossoming love affair. As the plot of the third novel only exists as an outline, we may never be able to see the conclusion of Lucile’s story. But what we do have is a startling, heartfelt portrait of life in wartime France.
2. Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian
Willie Beech is evacuated from London to the countryside, and he goes to stay at the home of Tom Oakley in the village of Little Weirwold. Oakley is a curmudgeonly widower who has few friends and it is clear the two are total opposites. But slowly a friendship starts to blossom, and Willie begins to thrive in his new home. That is, until he learns his mother is sick and he must return to London… Poignant yet life-affirming, Goodnight Mr Tom explores the world of evacuees, highlighting the strange circumstances the children had to confront. Although dealing with difficult topics, Magorian’s novel is still beautifully written, with kindness and wit on every page. One for children and adults alike.
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Although not technically set during World War II, the novel certainly deals with events during the war. Writer Juliet Ashton is struggling to come up with an idea for her next book when a letter from Guernsey arrives on her doorstep. Farmer Dawsey Adams has discovered her address in a second-hand book and wrote to her to see if she can send more novels and biographies. The two begin a correspondence and when Dawsey mentions the eponymous Society, Juliet is soon bombarded with letters from other members, slowly revealing life under Nazi-occupied Guernsey. Written by aunt and niece team Schaffer and Barrows, this is a very sweet, light-hearted novel with plenty of laughs. The characters are very charming and likeable, revealing an amazing strength even in dark times. A lovely, cosy read to warm even the coldest of hearts.
Do you have any favourite books set during the Second World War? Let me know in the comments below!