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July 17, 2020

World War II Historical Fiction

by Susan Roberts


Historical Fiction books that are set during WWII are some of my favorites.  Here are reviews of two books with very different perspectives - one from the point of view of a German woman looking for redemption and the other about an English woman who worked with the French resistance to help end the war.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Daughter of the Reich by Louise Fein 

May 2020; William Morrow; 978-0063019126
audio, ebook, print (560 pages); historical fiction
"You can't be a leader if you don't believe in what you do.  Hitler's voice echoes in my ears.  I pull myself taller and nod in agreement.  He's right.  I mustn't be weak;  I have a job to do and only I can do it."
  (p 62) 

I read a lot of World War II fiction and this is a different look at the war than what is normally written.  This book takes place in Germany before the war and gives a view of how many of the German people revered Hitler and thought that he was the only person that could save their country.  Most of the people who disagreed with this opinion were sent to 'work camps' or murdered on the street.

Hetty is the daughter of a high-ranking Nazi official.  She lives in a huge house with her father, her mother who spends her time working with charities and her brother.  The novel begins in 1933 when Hetty is 12.  She attends BDM (The League of German Girls or Band of German Maidens (German: Bund Deutscher M├Ądel, abbreviated as BDM) was the girls' wing of the Nazi Party youth movement, the Hitler Youth.) meetings and believes her father that Hitler is the only way for Germany to be saved.  She wants to do whatever she can to help Germany succeed and is enthralled with Hitler as a leader.  UNTIL... she sees Walter again.  Walter had been a friend to her brother and she had a crush on him after he saved her from drowning when she was very young until she found out that Walter was really Jewish, despite having Aryan features, and then she knew that he was an enemy to her beloved country.  When she sees him again, years later) and starts to talk to him, her world is turned upside down and she begins to wonder if all she has been taught has been a lie - are Jews really being prosecuted, are people being treated cruelly, are Jewish people starving?  All of these questions begin to prey on her mind as her relationship with Walter grows stronger even though she knows that she will be severely punished if they are ever seen together.  As she decides who to believe and tries to save Walter and his family, her life at home is becoming more difficult and the possibility of exposure is getting stronger as she realizes that someone is following her.  Will hatred cause the end of Hetty's love for Walter or will love overcome all of the hate?

It was difficult to believe that this was a debut novel by the author.  The characters were well written and there were characters to love and several characters who personified evil.  Hetty and Walter were both very well written and it was easy to root for them and their love despite the hatred in Germany at the time.  I enjoyed this book and definitely look forward to the next book from this author.

Buy Daughter of the Reich at Amazon


Question: What would you like readers to take away from Daughter of the Reich?

Author: The main thing is a sense of how easy it is to brainwash a nation.  I would like readers to think about what they might really do if they were placed in such a situation.  We all like to think we would be heroes and resist the forces of evil but it's different when it's your own loved ones who may suffer the consequences.  I believe we all need to think about the messages and actions of governments today.  Many may seem small and insignificant but added together they could potentially become more sinister.  Our institutions of democracy and freedom are fragile and need protection.

When We Were Brave by Suzanne Kelman 

When We Were Brave
February 2020; Bookouture; 978-1838882525
audio, ebook, print (318 pages); historical fiction
"First, she couldn't believe that no one in her family had ever spoken about Vivienne.  It was as though she'd never existed, as if the minute she left British soil, she vanished.  Also, if they didn't know what happened to her, with no information about where she had gone or even how she died, how could they be so sure she was a traitor?"
(p 25)

1944 - England.   Vivienne wanted to do something to help with the war.  She is accepted and trained as an agent who will be taken to Paris to send information back to England.  Her mission was a disaster and she was no longer needed by the agency.  She returned home to find that her ancestral home had become a hospital.  She asks to work there and is trained as a nurse.  Because she is able to speak German, she is called in to help with a German pilot whose plane crashed near the hospital.  As she gets to know him they fall in love and she helps him escape to France. Her family was shamed by her betrayal to her country and her name was never mentioned again by her family members.   

Present Day - London.  Sophie is in a dark place in her life.  Her daughter and her mother had recently died and her relationship with her boyfriend is falling apart.  She goes to work at a museum working on an exhibition of WW II memorabilia.  While looking at pictures, she sees someone in a picture who looks a lot like her mom.  When she tries to talk to her family about it, she finds out that the person in the picture is Vivienne and that after she eloped to France with a Nazi, was no longer mentioned in the family.  She decides to investigate further and travels to France and Germany to find out what really happened to her great-aunt.

But nothing can prepare Sophie for what she is about to uncover – the story of a woman who risked everything for the person she loved the most; and a secret family history that could be the key to Sophie’s own future.

This dual timeline novel switches seamlessly between Vivienne's story in England and Paris during WWII and Sophie's story in the present day.  I found both stories to be very intriguing and enjoyable.  The author did considerable research on the WWII sections of the book and on the type of information that was available for Sophie to do her searches in the present day.

This is a solid and compelling story that reminds us that there were many unsung heroes in WWII who sacrificed their lives to end the Nazi regime.

Buy When We Were Brave at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.


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