Over the last year and more, though, American readers have seen (and will see) a bumper crop of historical fiction on this subject. Many of these books arrived in my mailbox for review, so I've been reading and learning about the war from many different angles.
The trend's benchmark titles - hugely popular bestsellers - include Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Sarah Blake's The Postmistress, Pam Jenoff's bestselling romantic thrillers, and Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française... can you think of other recent titles that fit?
The novels below all have US publication dates between April 2011 and April 2012. These women are spies, nurses, office clerks, resistance leaders, and average citizens whose courage comes to the forefront when they're caught up in difficult times. The settings range from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain to California, Washington, DC, and the far-flung islands of the South Pacific.
Maria Dueñas, The Time In Between (Atria, Nov 2011). In this international bestselling epic, a Spanish seamstress works undercover for the Allies during Spain's civil war and World War II.
Anna Funder, All That I Am (Harper, Feb 2012). This debut novel brings to life the heroic German women and men who took a stand against the Nazis in the 1930s; based on historical people.
Kate Furnivall, The White Pearl (Berkley, Mar 2012). In 1941 Malaya, a bored plantation owner's wife finds her life upended when the Japanese invade.
Amanda Hodgkinson, 22 Britannia Road (Pamela Dorman, Apr 2011). A Polish father, mother, and son struggle to reunite as a family in England following their devastating wartime experiences.
Sarah Jio, The Bungalow (Plume, Dec 2011). A young woman in the Army Nurse Corps on Bora-Bora in 1942 begins an affair with a mysterious soldier.
Margaret Leroy, The Soldier's Wife (Hyperion, July 2011). Fans of Shaffer/Barrows can return to Guernsey in this tale of a housewife who falls for a soldier in the occupying German army - which leads to some tough decisions.
Susan Elia MacNeal, Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Bantam, April 2012). A debut historical mystery starring Maggie Hope, the newest typist at 10 Downing Street in 1940, who discovers that her position brings her innumerable opportunities as well as the potential for life-threatening danger.
Kristina McMorris, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (Kensington, Mar 2012). The author follows up her epistolary WWII-era romantic novel, Letters from Home, with the story of a violinist who marries a Japanese man and voluntarily accompanies him when he's forced into an internment camp in 1941.
Alison Pick, Far to Go (Harper Perennial, Apr 2011). This Booker-longlisted novel is a saga about a Jewish Czechoslovakian family who flee their country with their governess after the Nazis invade.
Alyson Richman, The Lost Wife (Berkley, Sept. 2011). Two young lovers in pre-war Prague are separated after the Nazi invasion, and their memories of each other help them survive until they're reunited by chance many decades later.
Sarah R. Shaber, Louise's War (Severn House, Aug. 2011). In this historical mystery, Louise, a young widow who's the newest clerk in the Office of Strategic Services in 1942 Washington, DC, sees an opportunity to help an old friend flee occupied France.
Lynn Sheene, The Last Time I Saw Paris (Berkley, May 2011). A naive New York socialite arrives in Paris during the Occupation and gets drawn into the resistance movement.
Also, the cover art for this one isn't final yet, but Margaret Wurtele's The Golden Hour (Berkley, Feb. 2012) details the coming-of-age of a young Tuscan woman who falls in love with a Jewish member of the partisan army.