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January 12, 2024

2 New Books about Strong Women During WWII

by Susan Roberts

In the genre of historical fiction, 2023 ended strong and 2024 is already showing it will be another great year of historical fiction. If you are a fan of World War II fiction, then make sure these books are on your reading list.

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

The Paris Housekeeper by Renee Ryan

book cover of historical fiction novel The Paris Housekeeper by Renee Ryan
December 2023; Love Inspired Trade; 978-1335448583
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); historical fiction

A  powerful and moving story of bravery and resilience in World War II Paris and one woman who must face impossible choices to survive…

The Parise Housekeeper is the story of Paris occupied by the Nazis and is told by three women in very different circumstances.

  • Vivian is a glamorous American widow who lives at the Hotel Ritz.  She continues her lavish lifestyle and doesn't seem to be affected by the German invasion until she is moved from her luxurious suite to a smaller room so that a German officer can live in her suite.  She begins an affair with the German officer and to the outside world, it appears that she is a German sympathizer.  She is hiding the fact that she's using her money to work with forgers to get fake identification papers to help Jewish people escape from France.
  • Camille is a chambermaid at the Ritz. She needs to keep her job to send money home to help her emotionally disturbed sister because she knows what the Germans do with people with mental issues.  Vivian has taken a liking to her and helps her make extra money by requesting her for help with her hair and wardrobe.  Camille is suspicious of Vivian but turns to her for help in trying to get a Jewish chambermaid out of France.
  • Rachel is Jewish and is treated poorly at her job because everyone knows.  She is aware that she needs to get her family out of Paris and when her father and brother are taken in a round-up, she knows that she must act soon to save her mother and herself.  Her friend Camille enlists help from Vivian but getting papers has become more difficult now that the Germans are being more ruthless.  

Camille sets up a daring escape plan to help her friend by hiding her in the home of the German officer who is having an affair with Vivian who has been trying to help - but has she really?  The last part of the book is very suspenseful and scary as the reader is unsure who will live and who will die and if the escape plan will work,

This is a well-written and well-researched novel about the lives of three very different women in Paris during the war.  It's a story of bravery and friendship and freedom and I highly recommend it.

Buy The Paris Housekeeper at Amazon

The Boy with the Star Tattoo by Talia Carner

book cover of historical fiction novel The Boy with the Star Tattoo by Talia Carner
January 2024; William Morrow; 978-0063325777
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); historical fiction

An epic historical novel of ingenuity and courage, of love and loss, spanning postwar France when Israeli agents roamed the countryside to rescue hidden Jewish orphans to the 1969 daring escape of the Israeli boats of Cherbourg.

This well-researched novel links together three time periods - 1942, 1946, and 1969.  The author does a fantastic job of linking together the people in each time period and the result is a story that won't be forgotten.  

  • 1942 - Claudette is a seamstress who is disabled and unable to walk to school.  She was basically illiterate until a Jewish peddler taught her to read and became her friend.  After her grandmother dies, she goes to a French chateau in the Loire Valley as a seamstress.  She begins to get very worried as she hears about the German Army invading France because she knows that they often killed invalids.  When her friend, the Jewish peddler and his son show up at the chateau, she hides them for a few days and also has an affair with the son.  After he leaves, she finds out that she's pregnant but refuses to tell anyone that the baby's father is Jewish.  When she escapes to Spain with the Duchess and family, she makes a devastating decision to leave her baby behind with a nursemaid so that he'll remain safe.  Will she ever see her son again?
  • 1946 - Youth Aliya, a group of Israeli agents is combing the French countryside in search of Jewish orphans to send to Israel.  During the war, Jewish children were often left with Christian families for safety and the parents never returned from the camps to claim their children.  Youth Aliya was working to teach these children about their Jewish history and to help them regain their pasts.  During this time period, the British were not allowing boats into Israel so the groups had to make secret and often dangerous trips to Israel to take their children to their new homes.  Claudette is not aware that her beloved son has been rescued by this group and adopted by an Israeli couple.
  • 1969 - twenty-year-old Israeli intelligence officer Sharon Bloomenthal, still grieving the loss of her boyfriend in a drowned military submarine, is recruited by naval officer Daniel Yarden to assist with the Cherbourg project -  an Israeli military action involving the escape of the five missile boats from the French port of Cherbourg.  The boats had been paid for by the Israeli government but had not been delivered due to the French arms embargo in 1969.  When Sharon learns that Danny came to Israel with the help of Youth Aliya, she tries to find out if he knew her deceased mother who arrived in Israel at the same time.  In trying to find out information about her mother, she discovers a secret about Danny and works to solve the mystery of his past.

As with many of the untold World War II stories, many of the people in the story were based on real people and real situations.  I learned so much in this book -- I had never heard of Youth Aliya and wasn't aware of their work to find abandoned Jewish children and send them to Israel and I wasn't aware of the escape of the five boats in 1969.  The characters were all well-written and believable.  Be prepared to shed a few tears -- some sad tears for the children who were left behind in France but also happy tears for the new lives they were able to begin.  If you read WWII fiction, this is a definite MUST READ!

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   

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