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May 30, 2022

3 Biographical Fiction Stories to Read

by Susan Roberts



In the United States, many people are spending time with friends and family cooking out, visiting the beach or pool, and maybe enjoying some fireworks later tonight to kick off the unofficial start of summer. But Memorial Day is about so much more than just some fun. We are remembering and honoring the men and women who answered the call to defend our country. Historical fiction can be a great way to learn about some of these people. I read a lot of WWII fiction, which is one of the most popular sub-genres of historical fiction. It seems like it would be easy to repeat the same stories and just change the names but authors keep finding new ways to address the war.  I've recently read 3 books that take a different look at the heroic women who did their part to win the war.  Each of these books looks at a different aspect of the war.

Angels of the Pacific is about the war with Japan
Sisters of Night and Fog has an American woman who stays in France to help the resistance
The Diamond Eye is about a Russian female sniper

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Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper

book cover of historical fiction novel Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper
March 2022; William Morrow; 978-0063212725
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); biographical fiction

Their survival would depend on sisterhood and service.

Angels of the Pacific is based on the Army nurses who were stationed in the Philippians and were held captive for several years of the war.  It is based on the Angels of Bataan and is about the bravery and perseverance that these nurses showed and how contributed to the victory over the Japanese.

Tess, Virginia, and Sally became friends on the ship taking them to Manila.  Before the war started, all of the American nurses felt thrilled that they had been stationed in the Philippines.  There were lots of parties and dances and good-looking guys to make the days go by.  After the Japanese bombed their base and destroyed all of the US airplanes, the hospital was moved to another base and soon after, they were sent to Bataan.

Conditions were tough there but they all kept doing their jobs no matter how desolate things became. After the Japanese took over the island, the American nurses were interned in Santo Tomas.  Flor, a Pilipino nurse who had worked with them in Manila, worked to get food to the nurses inside the prison.  What these women went through during their time in captivity was heart-wrenching and at times difficult to read.  They were there for over three years before the US troops liberated them.   Seventy-seven nurses were captured by the Japanese and all of them survived.   Even though they were starving and disease was rampant in the prison, they continued to take care of wounded soldiers who were sent there.  

Angels of the Pacific is an in-depth look at a brave group of nurses who did their part to help American win the war in the Pacific.  At times, it was difficult to read how they were treated but they continued to take care of each other no matter how bad things were.  After the war, they did what most of the brave soldiers did - they returned to their homes and continued their lives.

The author did a fantastic job of presenting the bravery and resilience of these women.  If you enjoy historical fiction with strong women, you don't want to miss this book.

My mom was a nurse cadet during WWII and would have become an army nurse if she had graduated before the end of the war.  She felt a strong camaraderie with these nurses and talked about them and their bravery so I was able to picture her as one of the characters of the novel.

Buy Angels of the Pacific at Amazon

Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck 

book cover of biographical fiction novel Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck
March 2022; Berkley; 978-0593102169
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); biographical fiction

Two women, two countries. Nothing in common but a call to fight.

Sisters of Night and Fog has two major characters - strong women who join the Resistance to help save France from the Nazi army.  They are both in constant danger of being caught and tortured but they believe in their cause and are willing to take chances if they can help France.

At the start of the war, Virginia refuses to take her parent's advice to come home to America; instead, she decides to stay in France with her French-born husband, Phillipe.  He is sent home after Germany invades France and he and Virginia decide to join the resistance.  Because they have a home outside of Paris, they frequently take downed English and American pilots to their home to hide until arrangements can be made to get them back to England.   They have a lot of close calls but help save many of the pilots.  It was interesting that Virginia would talk to the pilots when they were in her home and find out about the current news and music from The US.  She would then use that information to test the next pilot to make sure he wasn't really a German spy.

Violetta is only 19 but after her life is forever changed by German cruelty, vows to work diligently to help end the war.  She doesn't want to leave her small daughter back in England but her urge to join the SOE is more important than anything in her life.  Because she has dual citizenship in England and France she is often sent on the more difficult assignments and parachutes into France to help the local resistance operations.
 
The bravery of both of these women is amazing and they continue to work with the resistance until they are arrested and sent to Ravensbruck concentration where they meet for the first time. They struggle to stay alive while they do what they can to keep themselves and other women alive until the end of the war. 

For me, one of the amazing facts about this book is that both women are based on real people.  The author has done considerable research on both women and written a magnificent novel to help the world learn about these brave and resilient women.

 

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

book cover of biographical fiction novel The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
March 2022; William Morrow; 978-0062943514
audio, ebook, print (448 pages); biographical fiction

An unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. 
 

Kate Quinn brings her readers another deeply researched, well-written book about a strong female from World War II.  This book is based on the life of Lyudmila Pavlichenko known as“Mila”.  She was a mother and a scholar - working on her degree in history when the war broke out.  Because she had excelled in a shooting class, she wanted to be a sniper in the war.  Of course, the officers scoffed at the idea of a woman sniper and then were in awe when she showed them what she could do.  She became a lethal hunter of Nazis and became known as Lady Death.  When the news of her 300th kill became known, she became a hero to her countrymen.  The government took her away from the war and sent her to Washington  DC on a goodwill tour where she met and enjoyed her time with Eleanor Roosevelt.  But someone in Washington wants her killed and is following every movement she makes to try to make that happen.  All of a sudden, Mila is no longer working hard to protect her fellow soldiers but is fighting for her own life.

Once again, Kate Quinn brings to light the story of a strong woman from World War II.  The main character is based on a real person - another forgotten woman who fought for her country.  Not only is she a strong woman but she was successful in an area that had been done only by men.  She was a sniper who had an unbelievable number of kills during her time in the Army.  In some ways, The Diamond Eye was difficult to read based on what is going on in the world right now but I'm definitely happy that I decided to keep reading just to learn more about Mila. Kate Quinn has another hit World War II novel that you don't want to miss.

Buy The Diamond Eye 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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