Where are my fellow fans of WWII fiction? If you’re not with us yet, you might want to try one of the ten terrific WWII novels I’m sharing today. Fair warning: once you dip your toe in this compelling genre, the ocean is both deep and wide! Let’s dive right in…
As a contemporary Christian fiction author, when it comes to reading for pure pleasure in a completely different genre, my go-to tends to be WWII fiction. I can’t get enough of it!
It’s phenomenally popular of late—perhaps because we can visualize this historic era as many of our grandparents actually lived it out. It’s not that long ago. Consequently, authors have been able to research thoroughly, gifting us with accurately detailed personal fiction stories based on real-life events in descriptive settings with the tension of war and loss and love.
My ten picks include settings in France, Germany, England, and Guernsey. There are libraries, books, vineyards, villages, cities, a castle, and a circus. Intrigue, mystery, romance, suspense, faith, friendship, and family—this book stack has it all!
As an extra bonus, if you’d like to hear me chat about these books, you can check out my YouTube video HERE where I take a quick flick through and include my favourite feature of each novel. (Oh, and if you subscribe/ like I would be SUPER grateful!)
So, here are the Terrific Ten along with my mini-reviews… I’ve included my Amazon affiliate links in case you want to grab a copy (full disclosure here) which means I get a tiny commission while you pay the regular price for any of the books:
THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah
“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” Harrowing, heartbreaking, and hopeful. The Nightingale drew me in deeply—the relationship between two sisters, the authentic French setting, and the surreal struggle for survival during the Second World War. Kristin Hannah entices the reader into the fascinating unraveling story of relationships while providing unimaginable details of the horrors of war. A compelling read and one of my all-time favorite reads, this is a story that will stay with me for a very long time.
THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE by Kristin Harmel
France, WWII fiction, romance, vineyards, and family secrets… this riveting read ticked all the boxes for me! The story is told from the perspective of Ines and Celine, two young women living in the champagne vineyards of France in the 1940s, and modern-day American “Liv” who visits the area with her grandmother to discover a shocking secret about her family’s past. A thoroughly enjoyable tale of love, betrayal, redemption, and forgiveness.
THE ORPHAN’S TALE by Pam Jenoff
A harrowing story of an unlikely friendship between a teenaged girl disowned by her family and a beautiful Jewish aerialist in a traveling circus. Set in WWII Germany and France, we see how even amidst the nightmare of war, “the show must go on” for the circus. The facade continues until harsh reality hits in the most unexpected, heartbreaking way. In a similar vein to Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale”, this is a raw tale of wartime courage, love, passion, loss, and too many secrets.
THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles
Paris, books, the WWII era, and a library… this time-split novel checked so many of my happy boxes! In 1939 Paris, Odile Souchet lands her dream job at the American Library and has everything going for her—until the war breaks out and her life is forever changed. After living with painful secrets for decades, we then see an elderly Odile in 1983 Montanna. living a private, secluded existence until she befriends a curious teenaged neighbor. The bond of books, and the bite of betrayal—this is a captivating story of how the power of literature brings us together.
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” A story about a female writer in post-WWII London paired with a quirky book club on the charming island of Guernsey is the recipe for a captivating read! Add the fact that the entire book is written as a series of letters and you have something truly unique and compelling. I was intrigued by the title and how the author would weave the notion of this literary society into a storyline that would keep me turning the pages. But she did—and I absolutely loved it! The protagonist, Juliet Ashton, has a quick wit and is utterly fearless. She navigates romantic relationships, new and old friendships, and devastating revelations with strength and a writer’s curiosity. This little book with the long title has fast become one of my favourites!
WHEN TWILIGHT BREAKS by Sarah Sundin
On the brink of WWII, Evelyn Brand is a feisty American foreign correspondent based in Germany who desperately wants to hold her own in a male-dominated industry by reporting on the growing tyranny. However, when she makes a shocking personal discovery, she knows she is skating on thin and dangerous ice. Peter Lang is an American graduate student working on his Ph.D. in German, who risks everything to feed Evelyn the unspeakable truth. Their friendship deepens, their safety is compromised, and their suspenseful journey begins. This Christian historical fiction novel is thoroughly researched, fast-paced, with likable, strong characters—a compelling read!
THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES by Kristin Harmel
Inspired by a true story from WWII, this split-time book beautifully portrays the power of resilience and remembrance. When Eva, a semi-retired librarian, stumbles upon an image of a precious book from her past, she knows she must leave Florida and make a return trip to Europe where painful memories will be unearthed. Only Eva can reveal the truth about her days in war-torn France as a young forger helping Jewish children flee to the safety of Switzerland—and the book that holds the names of those who must never be forgotten.
EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN by Chris Cleave
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a witty, raw love story set in London during The Blitz. It truly brings to life the sheer horror of surviving in that great city as it all but crumbled to ruins while its people went about their day-to-day existence. It’s a fiction novel, yet Chris Cleave based it on his own grandparents and spent years researching intricate details to help us understand how bravado transformed to bravery. Brilliant!
THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS by Pam Jenoff
Anything “Paris” piques my interest, and I adore WWII fiction—so this book was a no-brainer for me. After reading Jenoff’s The Orphan’s Tale, I knew her writing would keep me turning the pages, and I was not disappointed with The Lost Girls of Paris. In post-war New York, young widow Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase in Grand Central Terminal, which contains photographs of twelve women—secret agents sent from London to Occupied France. Her curiosity leads to the unraveling of a sinister mystery, complete with intrigue, romance, and terror. Inspired by true events, this immaculately researched story was a fantastic read!
THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE by Jessica Shattuck
This mesmerizing novel follows the lives of three widows in the aftermath of destruction in World War II Germany. A castle once used for lavish parties in circles of high society ultimately shelters these brave women even in its decrepit state as they come to terms with the new normal and attempt to recover from lost love. Perseverance, resourcefulness, and forgiveness are portrayed vividly as the widows face unimaginable circumstances and unexpected friendships. Thoroughly researched and brilliantly penned.
“Reading is my favorite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.” Anne Brontë
I hope you found some new reads to check out here… let me know if you’ve read any of them and PLEASE leave your recommendations for us in the comments below. 🤗 And feel free to hop over and watch my YouTube video HERE!
P.S. If you would like TWENTY fiction book recommendations in a variety of genres, I have a freebie for you! Sign up HERE for my monthly bookish newsletter (featuring book giveaways, recipes, soul encouragement, and more) and receive my 20 FICTION FAVORITES suggestions, complete with reviews!
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