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Favourite Historical Fiction (WW2 Edition)

As I was picking my favourite historical fiction books I’ve read (so far), I noticed that all of them are situated in the time of the World War II. This didn’t surprise me because I truly am fascinated by that time and all the horrendous mess that roamed especially through Europe. I must say though that I think these novels tell a bit romanticised versions of the reality, but the reason I do adore these novels is how they provide completely different points of views on the world during the war time.

Kristin Hannah: The Nightingale 

I’ve written my thoughts about this book more in depth here , but I’ll still write about some of my points why this book is one of my favourite historical fiction novels. Now, this book’s events are mostly focused in Paris, and France in general, which to me is always a great joy. The plot follows essentially these two sisters who are on completely different journeys during the WW2; Vianne stays in quiet village, soon to be occupied by the Nazis, and she has to house a couple of officers, and deal with them, whilst taking care of her family. Meanwhile Isabelle is in Paris, rebelling against the occupation by joining to the Resistance, and smuggling allied forces soldiers out of France, through immense amounts of bravery and struggle.

The storyline really tackles the positions and meanings of women in war, which I love. Both of these strong female characters experience very difficult times, but nevertheless fight their way out of them courageously. The plot develops around the present moment and flashbacks to the past, which I think is appropriate for this kind of novel. In a way the narrator can be a bit unreliable and time might have affected her memories, and maybe romanticised the events to some extend. Overall this book is a beautiful story of these two sisters and the battle against evil in the form of a war.

C.W. Gortner: Mademoiselle Chanel 

I’ve always been intrigued by the story of the legendary Coco Chanel, and I adore the movie Coco avant Chanel, but this book definitely changed my views towards her. I hadn’t previously really known about her cooperations with the Germans, which was actually quite interesting to discover. Of course this book is fiction based on a true story so it isn’t clear how much of it is true, but however the things are, I adore this book.

Again this book is mostly situated in Paris and France, which is a always a bonus to find in a book to me, but the storyline is why I enjoy reading this book so much. This novel sure is a survival, and developmental story of this orphan girl named Gabrielle Chanel, but it is also much more than that. I found it interesting to see the war from the perspective of someone that was in a higher position, and was able to continue living their life quite normally even during the occupation.

This novel feels very realistic and rises up especially the struggles, addictions and heartbreaks, that had to be dealt with in the midst to becoming a legendary fashion icon. The book is written chronologically so it is easy to follow and the reader can see the growth through the years, and how especially the brand of Chanel starts to develop into what it still is today. Overall Mademoiselle Chanel tells a honest story, including all the uphill amongst all the fame. It truly shows also the other morphine-addicted, Nazi-cooperator-side of the genius fashion designer, which makes this book more than just a polished biography.

Markus Zusak: The Book Thief

This is one of my favourite books of all time. I worked with this a lot in high school, so it is very dear to me in that way too. The story follows this young German girl called Liesel Meminger, who is separated from her family and brought into living with her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. In my opinion Liesel’s story brings a different kind of perspective on the WW2, as everything is seen through the eyes of a 9 to 14 years-old girl.

Liesel’s development can be explored through the books she reads (and steals), and the more she reads, the more she is able to see through the propaganda and develop her own voice, which I find beautiful. So much in this novel is tied around books, reading and writing. Especially in Liesel’s life these bring her new relationships with completely different people, for example an adult Jewish man and the mayor’s wife. There is a tremendous amounts of joy found in books amongst the horrors of the war, and the most gorgeous thing is that even when Liesel basically loses everything and everyone important in her life, she is able to capture it all through writing her own story.

I’ve read this book multiple times, and I probably will reread it multiple times in the future too. Overall The Book Thief is a great story of friendship, family, loss and the power of words, that is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.


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