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Andrea’s Book Nook: Four historical fiction recommendations

By Andrea Silva Santisteban Fort, October 1 2021—

With this article, I want to recommend to you four great historical reads that I enjoyed. These books are set during the Second World War. Nevertheless, each tells a different side of this period. I also think these are great reads to get into the genre of historical fiction as a few of them can be considered Young Adult books. I do not think any of these recommendations are light reads, however, they are engaging and fast-paced, which will keep you entertained. Happy reading!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

In this book, the author writes about the cruelty of the war — a side that is often forgotten. When we think of the horrors of this period, our mind normally goes to the Nazi regime. Nevertheless, this story focuses on the atrocities that happened during the reign of Stalin. At the start of the war in 1939, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In these territories, people who were considered “anti-Soviet” were identified, annotated in a list and sent to work camps, known as the Gulag, in Siberia. Those deportees spent 10-15 years in Siberia. Between Shades of Gray tells the story of Lina, a fifteen-year-old girl who is deported, with her family, to work in the Gulag. It is a tale of survival, challenges and hope, which is complemented with a cast of secondary characters that promote action and drama to the plot. All of this composes a moving and well-written book.

Daughter of the Reich by Louise Fein 

This book is a love story set in Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the war. Hetty, the main character, is the daughter of an SS officer and the personification of Nazi ideals. She advocates for the greatness of the Third Reich and believes in the rules of the regime. However, this changes when she falls in love with Walter, a Jewish boy. Daughter of the Reich is an engaging story that captures the conflict that Hetty felt as she attempts to figure out where she stands with the propaganda fed to her and the emerging feelings she develops for her old friend. As the story unfolds, the couple has to face many challenges and uncertainties that open Hetty’s eyes to what is happening in her country, as she learns the truth of what hate and prejudice can do. Overall, this is a great read for contemporary romance readers who want to dive into the genre of historical fiction. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 

This story follows the journey of survival of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, in occupied France during the Second World War. Vianne lives in the countryside with her husband Antoine and her daughter Sophie — that is until her husband is drafted to fight the Nazi invasion. While Antonie is away, a German captain moves into Vianne’s home with her and her daughter. Risking starvation, Vianne is forced to make one impossible choice after another to survive and protect her daughter. On the other hand, Isabelle, the younger and more reckless sibling, ends up involved in the Resistance as a secret agent. I think it is interesting for the reader to see how the two sisters face the horrors and cruelties of war and fight back in their own way. The Nightingale is a tale of resilience, love and bravery in a context of uncertainty and fear, which makes for an amazing read!

The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy

This historical fiction book is set in Paris during the German occupation and tells the story of Mireille, Claire and Vivienne — three young seamstresses who are brought together by their ability to sew and love for fashion. Little do they know that their strong bond would carry over into working with The French Resistance to fight the Nazi regime. The story also includes alternating chapters about Harriet, the granddaughter of Claire, who discovered her family’s past to achieve some closure in her own life. Overall, The Dressmaker’s Gift is a story of heroism, strength, fear, love and the power of friendship.

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