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April 11, 2022

3 Books of Historical Fiction

by Susan Roberts

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.  Here are reviews of recent books that cover different time periods - World War I, World War II, and Reconstruction after the Civil War

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for honest reviews.

Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray

book cover of historical thriller Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray
March 2022; WW Norton & Company; 978-0393541885
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); WWI fiction

‘War poisons everything that it does not destroy.’

Amy is from a well-to-do family and believed that she would never find love.  When she met Edward at a church,  they both became interested in each other and went on many secret dates before he enlisted in the army to fight in World War I.  Their dates had to be secret because her parents would never approve of someone in a lower class.  When she received notification that he was missing in action, presumed dead, Amy decided to go to France to find him or find his body to bring home for burial.  She didn't know what to expect when she arrived in France and went to the battlefields where soldiers were working to identify the dead with many of the unknowns being buried in mass graves.  She encountered barbed wire, putrid water, and rat-infested tunnels everywhere she searched. Would she ever find Edward's body or was there a chance that he was still alive?

The author did considerable research to write this book about the unknown soldiers left in France and Belgium. It's a dark book filled with grief.  Parts of it were difficult to read and weren't there for shock value but were based on information from the war.  Amy is a well-written character and what she went through to find Edward's body was horrific.  Not only was she told over and over that a woman shouldn't be in that area but her determination and tenaciousness helped her through the worst times.  Most women in this era would never have gone to some of the places that she went looking for information.  Actually, most women would have never gone to Europe at all to find a lost soldier.

This dark novel is about soldiers who have given their all. It's beautifully written about an often ignored time in history.  Thanks to the author's research, this book gives the reader more information about WWI and the after-effects - including PTSD, drug usage, shell shock, and horrible injuries.  

Several years ago, I visited a World War I cemetery in Belgium   Military cemeteries are always sad but this cemetery was even worse.  Many of the crosses had no name on them and it was depressing that so many soldiers were lost in WWI that went unnamed and uncelebrated.

Buy Two Storm Wood at Amazon

Until We Meet by Camille Di Maio 

book cover of WWII novel Until We Meet by Camille Di Maio
March 2022; Forever; 978-1538738047
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); WWII fiction

"War was a particular kind of thief that stole not only the lives of the boys who went overseas but also the plans and aspirations of the families at home."

Camille Di Maio has given her readers a beautifully written and well-researched book about two groups of friends during WWII.    The men meet in training and then stay together when they go into the war zone.  The women all work at the Navy Yard and spend their free time knitting socks, writing letters, and doing whatever they can to help the soldiers come home.

Margaret, Gladys, and Dottie are very different from each other but they all work at the same place doing jobs that were done by men before the war.  Margaret is the most practical woman in the group and is thrilled that she has so many opportunities for jobs now.  Her brother is in the Army in Training.  Dotty is in love with Margaret's brother, and after he leaves for training, she finds out that she's pregnant.  Her parents kick her out and she depends on her two friends to help her.  Gladys is an early feminist who believes that women can and should be able to do anything.  The three men also become close friends and have each other's backs no matter what's going on.  Margaret starts writing to one of the men and he shares his life with her.  She wonders if she'll meet him in person after the war.

The thoughts and feelings of the three men as they faced enemy troops were well written.  They shared their feelings about their lives at war but they never quit fighting.  This is the first book that I've read that not only talks about the feelings of the women at home but also delves into the emotions of the men who are at war.

I loved this book.  I enjoy reading about the importance of friendship and these three women had a beautiful friendship.  They always supported each other and were available when one of their friends needed help.  They didn't all get their happily ever after ending but they had a friendship that was a lifesaver no matter what happened.

From a personal point of view, I was especially interested in the  men's thoughts and feeling as they participated in some of the biggest battles of the war - Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and more.  My dad was in the Army in WWII and never talked about the war for his entire life.  The three male friends in this book gave me a look at what life during WWII must have been like for my dad.

This is a book that you don't want to miss.  It's about war and there are some pretty brutal battle scenes but overall the book is about love, friendship, and family.  Family isn't always based on blood  - sometimes it's based on the people you care about the most.  Until we Meet made me smile and it made me cry but the overwhelming feeling throughout the book was the love between both groups of friends.

Buy Until We Meet at Amazon

Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander 

Book cover of biographical fiction Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander
February 2022; Gallery Books; 978-1982163686
audio, ebook print (336 pages); biographical fiction

"I know freedom holds endless possibilities for me...Yes, we are free now. But there are just too many memories here, lingering memories of the lash, of the cold nights sleeping on hard dirt floors, and the long days tending the crops under the hot Carolina sun."
  (p 6)

A vivid and moving novel based on the incredible life of real estate magnate Josephine N. Leary—a previously untold story of passion, perseverance, and building a legacy after emancipation in North Carolina.

This book is a fictionalized story about the real Josephine N. Leary.  It starts in the year 1870.  Josephine, her mother, and grandmother had all been slaves on a nearby plantation but now they are starting over and their memory of their lives as slaves help them to want not only a life of freedom but also a life where they are free to pursue their dreams.

Josephine married the love of her life Sweety, and they open a barbershop where they both work and eventually have two daughters together.  Josephine had a dream of being financially independent and owning property.  There are no businesswomen to help her so she teaches herself how to be a businesswoman and handle her finances.  After she buys her first building, it gets more difficult to buy more real estate.  She is looked down upon not only for her color but also because she's a woman.   At first, her husband is proud of her accomplishments but he soon feels that he's a laughingstock because his wife would sooner be a businesswoman than to just stay home and be a wife and mother.  But she perseveres and holds her family together while she works hard to accomplish her dreams.

Even though I live in North Carolina, I've never heard of Josephine N Leary.  The author said in her notes that it was very difficult to find information about her while she was doing her research but she used Josephine's diaries to write this book.  This is another example, and unfortunately, there are many of them, of a strong and intelligent woman being forgotten in history.  I was impressed with her strength and perseverance to follow her dreams and help make a better world for her children and future generations.

Buy Carolina Built 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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