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December 13, 2021

3 New Books of World War II Historical Fiction

by Susan Roberts

Most of the historical fiction that I read takes place during World War II.  I enjoy reading about the bravery of women during this time period who work to overcome the atrocities of the war.

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The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton 

The Postmistress of Paris
November 2021; Harper; 978-0062946980
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); biographical fiction

"You are taking a German refugee wanted by the Gestapo, illegally across half of France, if not across the border." 
(p 324)

Many historical fiction books are based on real people - usually women who have been forgotten over time.  Many of these women were brave beyond words and helped to defeat the Germans in many different ways.  This new book by Meg Waite Clayton is based on Mary Jayne Gold, an American heiress whose bravery inspired Naneé, the main character in this book.

Naneé was an American heiress who loved Paris and had spent so much time there that she felt she was a Parisian.  She's a social butterfly and very interested in the arts - painting, writing, etc.  She meets Edouard at a party.  He has escaped Germany and is trying to keep he and his daughter, Luki, safe in France even though the Vichy government is rounding up Jewish people and sending them to camps.   She starts working with the Resistance to help artists and painters get out of the country.  One part of the book that was filled with tension happened when Luki was sent to Paris with friends and her father was supposed to follow her the next day but the police took him to jail for a month.  After he was released, he was unable to find his beloved daughter and he didn't know if she was safe.  Naneé worked with the Resistance to send messages to people who were in hiding and to get the proper paperwork so they could get out of Paris to safety in America.

Her bravery helped many people escape but it put her in danger.  Will she be able to get out of France when the Gestapo is looking for her?

This is another fantastic book based on real people who put their lives at risk to help people escape from the danger in World War II.  If you enjoy historical fiction from this time period or enjoy books about brave women who make a difference in the lives of others or just want to read an exciting book- you don't want to miss this one.  Once again this author gives her readers a well-written and well-researched story with characters that will be difficult to forget.  

The Last Checkmate by Gabriella Saab

The Last Checkmate
October 2021; William Morrow; 978-0063143388
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); political fiction

"Maybe we aren't meant to leave the past behind. Maybe we're meant to bring it with us so we can join others weighed down by the same burdens, and we can carry them together. Maybe that's how we find peace."  
Marie was just 14 years old when she started working with the resistance in Warsaw.  Even though she was so young she felt that she needed to do what she could.  When she is arrested, her parents and the rest of her family were also arrested.  After time in a prison in Warsaw, the family is sent to Auschwitz in a cattle car.   She and her family were all sent to the line of the people who were to be executed but when she lost her family in the crowd, she managed to get into the line with the people who would be saved to be workers.  The superintendent of the camp sees a small chess piece fall out of her pocket and decides to let her live so that he has a chess partner.  He makes her play chess with some of the various guards in the camp but he enjoys toying with her when they play.  She knows that as soon as he gets bored with her, she'll be executed.  Maria gives us a very close look at what she went through at the camp - from morning roll calls to how she spent her days working for endless hours.  Her main goal is to find out who murdered her parents and when she gets more information, she vows to find them and kill them.  At the end of the war, will Maria be able to 'checkmate' the person who killed her family?

The Last Checkmate is a debut novel from this author and  I can't wait to see what she writes next. This book is very well written and researched.  With the brave main character, Maria, she gives us a young woman who was much stronger and braver than she realized.  Even though the book covers a dark time in history, my feelings at the end were of peace and strong hopes for the future.   If you enjoy WWII historical fiction, this is a book that you need to read.

Note:  Be sure to read the author's notes at the end.  Many of the characters in this book were based on real people.  She not only gives us information about these people that the book is based on but also tells what happened to them after the war.

Buy The Last Checkmate at Amazon

Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies

Daughters of War
November 2021; HarperCollins; 978-0008487874
ebook, print (554 pages); historical fiction

France...1944...Some Secrets Never Die

This novel takes place in the river valley of Dordogne near the village of Sainte-Cecile in 1944.  The Germans have occupied the town since 1940 and the occupants are hoping that the end of the war will come soon.  

Helene, Elise, and Florence Baudin live in a small cottage outside of the town.  They are all in their twenties and are doing what they can to keep each other safe.  They love each other dearly but they don't always get along.

  • Helene works as a nurse.  Since she's the oldest, she tries to take care of her sisters and keep them safe.   
  • Elise is very daring and part of the Resistance.  
  • Florence is a dreamer and longs for the end of the war. She stays at home and cooks and works in their garden.

This multi-layered novel is told by all three of the sisters in alternating chapters.  By writing it this way, we get differing views from each sister about their childhoods, fears and dreams for the future. 

When Florence comes home from a walk, she has a wounded German deserter with her.  She wanted to keep him safe until he could recover.  Helene and Elise are both concerned with keeping him in their house.  They all know the punishment for hiding deserter is death.  The same night, the doctor's wife brings an RAF pilot to the house for a few days until they can find a safe house for him.  They reluctantly agree to hide him too.  They all want to do their part in defeating the Germans and making France free even though they are aware of how they would be treated by the Germans if either man was found in their home.

Many WWII novels give the reader the big picture of the war and its effect on the people.  This book is a look at one small family - three sisters - so we get a more personal view of the war and their struggle for freedom.

I was very impressed by this book and the author's writing.  The three sisters were all written very well, the scenery in France was beautiful and the ending makes me anxious for the next book in the trilogy.  Dinah Jefferies has several earlier books about WWII and I plan to check them out.  

NOTE:  This book is book 1 in a new trilogy called Daughters of War.  Book 2 The Hidden Palace will publish in 2022.

Buy Daughters of War at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. 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 historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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