A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert
It is 1941 in Ukraine and the Germans are rounding up Jews and taking them into an old brick factory. As two inseparable Jewish brothers try to get away from the Germans and make their way through shadowy, deserted streets, a teenage girl is inclined to offer them shelter. The story parallels between multiple perspectives which helps us see the world through different eyes. As artistic the name of this book is, so is Seiffert’s prose, rich with atmospheric imagery and compassion. As expected from a tale about the Holocaust, it is absolutely gut-wrenching, so be prepared for some major waterworks. However, there is also a tiny shred of hope in the form of strength and determination of the characters, shining brightly throughout the chaos and heartache.
Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: Wartime Stories by Mollie Panter-Donnes
If you are a fan of short stories, this book is a must-read. With the perfect balance of humour and grief, these memorable stories are bound to stay with you. The stories seem incredibly real, almost as if they were non-fiction; even if they are about mundane, daily lives of civilians during World War II, they are relatable and engaging enough to be devoured in one sitting. The most interesting aspect is that some characters appear in more than one story, and it’s almost magical to see how their lives tie in together.
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Moving backward in time from 1947 to 1941, Sarah Waters has penned an incredible historical fiction of war-torn London. The story focuses on the lives of a few Londoners, their struggle for survival, and how their paths cross and lives intertwine. Since it goes back in time, it is particularly interesting to see how the characters’ paths crossed and where it all began. Waters creates a realistic portrayal of post-World War II life; her descriptions are poignant and moving. Like most descriptive books, it may take you a while to get into it, but once you’re in, you will be unable to turn away until you’ve devoured it all. A must-read if you are interested in that time period.
Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
World War II has started in England, and children are being evacuated from London to the countryside. Tom Oakley is an old grouch, who is forced to take in 8-year-old Willie Beech against his will. Although nervous little Willie and loner Tom may as well be from different planets, soon an unlikely friendship blooms, changing each of them for the better. There is a perfect balance between the simple innocence of a child’s tale and the distressing details the story includes. The friendships formed all seem honest and convincing, and Magorian’s simple yet emotional writing makes the story truly heart-warming. A touching and powerful tale to be enjoyed by adults and children alike, this story is bound to make you nostalgic for your awkward and shy childhood days.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This gripping story on survival follows two sisters, both living in France at the beginning of World War II, but each on very different paths: One is a school-teacher taking care of her child alone while her husband is drafted into the army; the other, after suffering betrayal and heartache, joins the French resistance. Hannah’s writing is vivid and descriptive, bringing the characters and the experiences to life as if you’ve lived through them. The women are extremely strong and inspirational, and their heartbreaking struggles are sure to make you shed a few tears. This book certainly deserves its spot on the bestsellers list.
Kashfia Hassan loves to write professionally and for fun.