Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Women at War: A Novel Bibliography, part 2

Here's the second half of my annotated bibliography of new/forthcoming historical novels featuring the women of World War II.  Is anyone doubting now that this is a trend? Here is part 1 if you missed it.

Below are a dozen titles: sagas, literary fiction, mainstream historicals and more.  Many of these books contain parallel narratives that show the connections between the 1940s and the present.

Today, of course, is the 70th anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor, the event that led to America's entry into World War II.  All of these titles have US publishers, and they portray the wartime experiences of women (and men) on both the American home front and overseas in Britain and Europe.

Alison's Orange Prize-shortlisted debut novel focuses on eight-year-old Anna Sands, whose coming-of-age story runs up against the undercurrents of a Yorkshire couple's relationship when she is evacuated from London just before the Blitz.  Washington Square, July 2011.

Bradford, a writer of bestselling sagas, stays true to form with a multi-period story about long-hidden family secrets.  A modern-day filmmaker discovers a shocking letter that sends her on a quest to Istanbul to discover the truth about her late, beloved grandmother, Gabriele, and the role she played during the war.  St. Martin's, April 2012.

The title of Howard's second novel refers not to noir fiction but to the experiences of black immigrants in World War II Paris. From their home in Montmartre during the summer of 1944, native Martiniquaise Marie-Therese Brillard gingerly pursues a new romance while her two adult children get caught up in the joy sweeping the city after the German occupation ends.  AmazonEncore, September 2011.

In this novel that moves back and forth between the present and the past, two attorneys in present-day Germany fall in love while preparing the defense of a man accused of war crimes... who claims the key to his exoneration lies in a timepiece last seen decades ago.  Doubleday, July 2011.

Lauren O'Farrell, a modern woman who recovers lost works of art looted by the Nazis, meets up with an elderly Manhattanite whose mother was rumored to be a Nazi collaborator, but whose life - as well as her daughter's - was much more complex than that.  Review forthcoming. Berkley, October 2011.

In 1980, an American airline pilot returns to France to find the members of the Resistance who rescued him after he was shot down over Occupied France - in particular a teenage girl who wore a blue beret.  Mason based her literary novel on her late father-in-law's wartime experiences.  Random House, June 2011.

A magazine reporter in modern-day Texas interviews an elderly baker for a Christmas-themed piece and finds herself drawn into the woman's dark, complicated tale of her life in Germany during WWII.  Crown, January 2012.

I wrote about McMorris's upcoming WWII novel Bridge of Scarlet Leaves in my previous post.  Letters from Home was her debut, based upon her grandparents' letters during the war. Three Chicago-area roommates discover life doesn't turn out as planned, especially when one young woman's correspondence with an American soldier turns romantic. Kensington, March 2011.

Niven's previous novel, Velva Jean Learns to Drive, was one of my favorite books of 2009 - great story, great characters, great narrative voice. This sequel sees Velva Jean leaving the Tennessee mountains and her stifling marriage to follow her dream of singing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1941.  Then the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and the older brother she adores gives her a flying lesson.  Plume, September 2011.

You can't quite make this out on the cover, but this traditional British saga is being compared to Downton Abbey and Kate Morton's novels - so I'm there. In 1938, a young upper-class Jewish woman leaves Vienna before war breaks out and becomes a parlor maid on a large Dorset estate, which causes some major adjustments (and leads to unexpected romance). The UK title was The Novel in the Viola.  Plume, December 2011.

I didn't have the cover art for this one last time, but it's since been posted on Amazon.  Giovanna, a young woman in 1940s Tuscany, comes of age during the war as she falls in love with a Jewish member of Italy's partisan army. The author will be stopping by with a guest post in February.  Berkley, Feb. 2012.

Sister Bernard, an elderly nun in contemporary France, is forced to rejoin the wider community when her convent closes - which brings back memories of her passionate wartime affair with a German soldier.  Penguin, January 2012.


  1. The Very Thought of You and The Things We Cherished were both disappointing to me, but many of the others on your list sound very interesting. Nice list.

  2. Thanks for these wonderful post on Women at War. Some I know, others are new to me, all sound so interesting. Thanks for this very nice roundup.

  3. The Woman Who Heard Color.. I rarely like those artsy fartsy books but that sounds intriguing.. The title really catches my attention, most likely cause I can't hear anything at all, thus, the idea of hearing color.. Beyond cool. I look forward to your review on that.

  4. Glad to catch pt 2 of this list.

    I read The Things We Cherished and The very thought of you is on my shelves.

    I shall be looking up some of those other suggestions.


  5. Velva Jean Learns to Drive sounds interesting. I do like novels where the woman's role isn't just sitting around looking mopey while the man goes off to war. This one sounds interesting.

  6. I was disappointed with The Very Thought of You as well. I have Pam Jenoff, Obedience and The Baker's Daughter sitting on my shelves to read.

  7. Mary G.6:33 AM

    Just added a few new items to my wish list! Thanks for the round up!

  8. And there goes any plan of finishing my TBR list this winter :) Thanks!

  9. I am currently reading the Pam Jenoff's as good as her others!! Also, I am SO happy to have found your blog as these books are "right up my alley"...I love finding out about upcoming WWII era books! Thank you!!

  10. Yay! Glad to see more! My Goodreads TBR pile is overflowing with wonderful treasures.

  11. Thanks - I'm glad to see this post found a good audience! The only one I've read of these is The Golden Hour, which was quite good. I want to read them all, though I have my eye especially on House at Tyneford.

  12. Anonymous11:52 AM

    I'm glad to hear that Sarah liked THE GOLDEN HOUR, as the author is local (and maybe she will speak at conferences). OBEDIENCE and THE BAKER'S DAUGHTER are/were both offered via Netgalley. I confess that I couldn't get very far with the latter - it seemed derivative (take a little Sarah's Key, add a little other title, you know). Nor did I get very far with THE GIRL IN THE BLUE BERET; the prose was workmanlike at best (and I thought Bobbie Ann Mason was known for her writing).

    I'm very much looking forward to THE HOUSE AT TYNEFORD.

    Sarah Other Librarian

  13. These all look wonderful. I'm especially taken with Obedience.

  14. I nearly bought Obedience from the UK before realizing it would be out in the US - and I prefer the US cover!

    Thanks for the reports on the titles you've read, Sarah. I just got a fantastic report on Tyneford so am looking forward to it even more.