Tag Archives: World War II

All the Light we Cannot See

[Cover]

Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Publisher: Scribner, May 2014

Summary/Review: It is 1934 and Marie-Laure is just 6 years old when she loses her sight. Her father, the principle locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, teaches her well how to adjust to her blindness. As she grows, Marie-Laure’s curiosity and intelligence blossom even as the threat of a world war looms. When Hitler and his army begin their attempt to dominate Europe, Monsieur LeBlanc must flee Paris with Marie-Laure ahead of the impending invasion.

It is 1934 and 8 year old Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta are living in an orphanage in Germany. Their favorite pastime of building and fixing radios, and listening to broadcasts from all over Europe, becomes increasingly difficult as the Nazi party begins to censor what German citizens are allowed to listen to. Before they are completely cut off from the outside world, Werner and Jutta see and hear enough to be frightened of what their country and countrymen are becoming. As Werner gets closer to his 15th birthday and his obligatory job in the local mine, an opportunity arises that will change his life forever.

All the Light We Cannot See is the mesmerizing story of Marie-Laure and Werner and their struggle to survive in a world at war. On opposite sides but so very alike, both are thrust into situations that they cannot control and their palpable fear and frustration can be keenly felt. Doerr’s writing is nothing short of perfect. I was absolutely captivated by this novel and I now consider it one of my top 10 favorite novels of all time.

Who will like this?:  Someone looking for a historical novel on World War II. Someone who is not afraid to take an emotional journey through war – be prepared for characters that will stay with you.

If you like this, try this:  Book Thief by Marcus Zusak or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  If you enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s writing style, he has written other books, including “The Shell Collector” and “Memory Wall” (short stories) and “About Grace”, a novel.

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If this looks like a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

Light Between Oceans

light between oceans

Title: Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman

Publisher: Scribner, July 2012

Summary/Review: After surviving four years of war on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a position as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. Although the island is completely isolated, a half-day’s journey from the coast, Tom begins to find peace after years at war. On his first shore leave he meets Isabel, a bold young woman full of life and joy. As the two fall in love and she agrees to marry him they both envision a life of beauty and adventure in the lighthouse. Years later, after the hardship of living in isolation and after repeated miscarriages and a still birth Isabel is no longer the joyful woman Tom married. Then one day a boat washes to shore carrying a dead man and a living baby, and Tom and Isabel make a decision that will carry repercussions for years to come. In their years of isolation and hardship they’ve lost sight of the lives they effect on the mainland.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The story is rich with emotions and you will feel yourself getting pulled in to their story. Would you make the same decisions? And once made would you stick to them no matter what? Tom is torn between what he knows is right and wanting to make Isabel happy after her years of heartbreak. Most stories have a clear picture of right and wrong and the characters you are pulling for. Although there is heartbreak in this story the resolution is honest and real.

Who will like this book? Anyone who enjoys historical fiction or is just looking for the best book written this year.

 If you like this, try this: If you were pulled in by the intense plot, “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey deals with a couple facing a very similar issue. If you were more drawn to the writing, this is M.L. Stedman’s debut but keep an eye out for more from her in the future!

Recommended by: Linda, Circulation Assistant

If this looks like a book you would like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available or place a hold! [Link will open in a new window]

Amandine

TitleAmandine

Author:  Marlena de Blasi

Publisher: Random House, May 2010

Summary: Amandine is the first novel written by Marlena de Blasi, an author known for her memoir writing. The story is captivating and the author’s writing is simply beautiful, filled with sense details and unforgettable characters. Amandine is born out of wedlock into an aristocratic family in Krakow, Poland in 1931. She is born with a heart defect and not expected to survive. Under the pretext of bringing her to a hospital in Switzerland, Amandine’s  grandmother brings her to a remote convent in France. The Countess arranges to leave the child at the convent with a large sum of money and in the care of a governess, Solange Jouffroi. As a young child, Amandine is doted on by the nuns, Pere Philippe and Solange, but suffers cruelty and humiliation at the hands of the Abbess Mother Paul and the other children attending school at the convent. This cruelty, compounded by the abandonment by her mother, causes Amandine to believe there is something wrong with her. After a tragedy involving Amandine is barely averted, Solange takes her on a harrowing journey north through occupied France toward the governess’s home. Leaving their sheltered life in the convent, the pair discovers the horrors of war all around them. Meanwhile, Amandine’s birth mother, having just recently discovered that her child did not die at the hospital in Switzerland, has begun her own journey to find her. This is a story that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

Who will like this book? Fans of historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Information Officer

Title: The Information Officer

Author:  Mark Mills

Publisher: Random House ,February 2010

Summary:    It’s the summer of 1942 and Malta is quickly becoming the most bombed place on earth. The strategic location of the island, between Europe and Africa, has increased its value to both the Germans who are bombing it, and the Allies who are stationed there. The residents fear a German invasion, but the lack of protection against the constant air raids has weakened their loyalty to the Allies.

British officer Max Chadwick has been given the position of Information Officer. His assignment is to manipulate the news coming in to Malta to buoy the spirits of the troops and the island residents. What the Maltese do not know is that a psychopath walks among them, killing young women and leaving their bodies out in the open to appear as if they were killed during a bomb strike. When another young woman is found dead Freddie, a friend of Max’s and a doctor at the local hospital, discovers the true cause of death. He confides in Max that this is the third murdered woman who has come into the morgue recently. This time, though, a shoulder patch from a British officer’s uniform is found in the dead woman’s clenched hand. Max knows that if this news is released to the public, Maltese loyalty to the Allies may finally be shattered.

The Information Officer is both a love story and a murder mystery, with occasional glimpses into the mind of the killer. The crucial role that Malta played during the war may not be common knowledge, and will certainly appeal to readers of historical fiction. Mills is masterful at expressing a sense of place, with his descriptions fueling the reader’s imagination.

Who will like this book? Fans of  historical fiction and suspense novels.

Recommended By: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Madonnas of Leningrad

Title:  Madonnas of Leningrad

Author:  Debra Dean

Publisher:  William Morrow, 2006

Summary: First, thanks to Claudia Silk, our discussion leader of the Woods Book Group, for choosing this title because I don’t think I would have picked it up otherwise.  How did I miss it when it first came out?!?

Madonnas of Leningradis the story of Marina Buriakov and the memories that make up her lifetime.  In the present day, she is an 82 year old woman, getting ready to take a trip with her family to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, which should be a joyous occasion.  But Marina is slowly sinking into the abyss that is Alzheimer’s disease, making everyday tasks so difficult. And as her present slips away, the memories from her past become quite vivid, pulling her back to relive them. The author does a beautiful job of taking the reader into that time, bringing war-torn Russia to life.  Marina is a docent at the State Hermitage Museum during the siege of Leningrad in the second World War, and it is part of her job to help stow away the priceless treasures of the museum to keep them safe from destruction and theft.  Many workers and their families take refuge in the building’s basement, and to pass the time, Marina and a fellow worker walk through the empty rooms, creating a “memory palace,” envisioning the canvases that once occupied the now-empty frames.

This debut novel by Debra Dean is a work of art itself.  Beautiful and poignant, it reminds us that our memories truly are treasures. For more on Madonnas of Leningrad, listen to our podcast of Debra Dean’s call in to the Woods Book Club.

Who will like this book?:  Anyone with an interest in art history, World War II fiction, and/or family drama.

If you like this, try thisRemembering the Bonesby Frances Itani.  The Siege by Helen Dumore.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian

City of Thieves

Title: City of Thieves

Author:  David Benioff

Publisher: Viking, May 2008

Summary: David is a screenwriter who has been asked to write an autobiographical essay for a magazine. He feels his life is not interesting enough to write about so he travels to Florida to interview his Russian grandfather about his life during the siege of Leningrad. The interview lasts a week but focuses on one particular week during the siege when David’s grandfather Lev met his future wife, made his best friend, and killed 2 Germans.

Lev Beniov is seventeen and without family in Leningrad. His father was taken away and his mother and sister fled the city before the Germans surrounded it. He has been living in an abandoned building since the siege and he spends his days keeping watch for fires from the rooftop and trying to find enough food and wood to survive. One evening as he is on fire watch, he and his friends spot a German paratrooper falling from the sky. He is obviously already dead, so Lev and his companions find the body and proceed to take everything they can form the dead soldiers pockets. Unfortunately, the police catch Lev and arrest him for looting. While in custody, Lev meets Kolya, a soldier who has been arrested for desertion. The two are spared by the colonel in charge, but only because the colonel has other plans for them. Their ration cards are taken from them and will not be returned until they accomplish this nearly impossible feat: find a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. Yes, people are starving to death all over the city, but the colonel’s daughter needs 12 eggs for her wedding cake.

Soon after Lev and Kolya set off on this odyssey to find the eggs, they realize they will never find them in city and must travel behind enemy lines if they have any chance of completing this assignment. The story of Lev and Kolya’s struggle to survive and prevail is at times heartwarming and at times heartbreaking. By the end of this book I cared so much for these two characters that it made me sad to finish the book. This is truly one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Who will like this book?  Everyone, especially those who like historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Skeletons at the Feast

TitleSkeletons at the Feast

Author:  Chris Bohjalian

Summary:  Skeletons at the Feast, the newest novel by Chris Bohjalian, is the story of an aristocratic Prussian family during the final months of World War II. Eighteen year old Anna Emmerich, her younger brother and their mother are desperately trying to reach the American and/or British forces who are advancing from the West. The Russians are advancing from the East and tales of rape, torture and murder by the Russian soldiers have been advancing ahead of them. Traveling with Anna and her family is Callum, a Scottish POW with whom Anna has fallen in love, and Uri, an escaped Jew who has disguised himself as a German soldier.

Throughout their journey, the refugees hear stories of the atrocities committed by their soldiers, and see first-hand the committed by their enemies. The tragedies endured by the innocent people on both sides of the war is heartbreaking. The resilience of the characters throughout the story, to the very end, is amazing. Chris Bohjalian is a wonderful author and a master at character development.

Who will like this book?  Anyone who likes historical fiction.

If you like this try: Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Mudbound

Title: Mudbound

Author: Hillary Jordan

Summary: Halfway into Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound, I knew that she had earned a place on my “Must Read Authors” list. This is a wonderful, beautiful, brutal, tragic, richly painted novel that is worthy of all of its high praise.

It’s the Mississippi Delta in the 1940’s. The story opens as Henry and his brother Jamie are trying desperately to bury the body of a man, their father. Slowly, the reader is drawn into the lives of the six people who set in motion the events that lead to this man’s death. Laura and Henry McCallan are struggling with day-to-day life on a farm; Hap and Florence Jackson, the black sharecroppers who live and work on the McCallans’ farm, must deal with racism and the unforgiving conditions of the labor they face every day. Each family awaits the return of a war hero, and each family is brought to its knees as their wounded veterans come home and try to resume a “normal” life.

Before it was even published, Mudbound was the winner of a literary prize, the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, the founder of the award, had this to say of Hillary Jordan: “her characters walked straight out of 1940’s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are still with me.”

And they are still with me as well.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian