While I spent more time packing and unpacking books in April than I did reading them, I did manage to devour a couple of titles. Feeling the need for comfort reading, I fell back on one of my favorite genres, historical fiction. Mr. Smith and I, along with millions of other readers, are particularly drawn to World War II historical fiction.
Sometimes I wonder about this attraction. Is it the inherent sense of good versus evil? Is it a way to connect with our grandparents’ disappearing generation? Is it the real-life stories the books are based on? I know I often wonder what I would have done under similar circumstances.
THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON by Madeline Martin
This book was inspired by the true history of the few bookshops that survived the Blitz, including those on Paternoster Row, a street in the city of London that was the center of the London publishing trade.
Grace Bennett was born and raised in a small England town, but always dreamed of moving to London. When she finally arrives in August 1939, it is not what she expected. There are bunkers and drawn curtains which quickly evolve into blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies.
Not previously interested in literature, she finds herself working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop in the heart of London. Between the bookshop and a new love interest, Grace learns to appreciate the power of books and the sanctuary bookshops can provide to people. She also discovers strength she never knew she had when she becomes a warden with the ARP (Air Raid Precautions). Four Grandmas!
SISTERS OF WAR by Lana Kortchik
Natasha and Lisa Smirnova are sisters in Kiev, 1941, when they realize their lives are about to change forever. The Red Army is withdrawing, and Hitler is advancing. As the German army occupies their city, the sisters and their family face the horrible realities of war. There is love, betrayal, kindness and cruelty.
“…all human wisdom is summed up in these two words – wait and hope.”
I have read a lot of historical fiction, but never anything about the Nazi occupation of Kiev and parts of the Soviet Union. This book illustrated the complexity of life during World War II and taught me some history I should have already known. Highly recommended. Four Grandmas.
C’est la vie.