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April 3, 2024

2 World War II Novels

by Susan Roberts

Today I have reviews of two World War II books that are both about the perilous work that two young people did to help end the war.

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Kate's War by Linda Stewart Henley

book cover of historical fiction novel Kate's War by Linda Stewart Henley
April 2024; She Writes Press; 978-1647426149
ebook, print (296 pages); historical fiction

Kate is 20 years old and living with her family in the outer suburbs of London in 1939.  She has just ended her first romance and she is finally able to achieve her dream of moving to London to pursue a singing career.  She and her best friend plan to rent a flat together and it's almost time to tell her family.  She isn't sure if she can make a career with her voice because although she has a beautiful voice, she has severe breathing problems when she's nervous which affects her voice.  As the novel begins it's finally the day to tell her parents that she is leaving when the Prime Minister makes a special announcement on the radio to tell Britain that they are at war with Germany.  She realizes that she can't leave at a time like this so she goes back to her part-time career teaching music and puts her dream of moving to London on hold.  A mother of one of her students, asks Kate to take care of her daughter if anything happens to her.  Kate, not realizing that the girl's family is Jewish, agrees to help.  When the family is deported, Kate brings the young girl into her home which shows that Kate has courage that she never knew she had.  She learns that her earlier dreams of London are nothing compared to her new work of protecting Jewish children.  She volunteers as an escort to bring Jewish children to the UK for safety.

This is a coming-of-age story and we see many changes happen to Kate during the course of the novel.  She realizes that she wants to continue to help people and that her new life helping people is more important than her earlier dreams.  She gains strength and courage that she never thought she had when she realizes that she can make a difference and help her country during the war.

I read a lot of WWII books but this one is different because it concentrates on one young girl who grows up during the war as bombs drop around her.  Instead of continuing with her life as it was, she reaches out to help others and realizes that's where her heart is.  The book is about the big picture of the war but also gives the reader a fresh look at the day-to-day changes that everyone in Britain had to endure with food rationing and the constant worry about the bombing of their country.  This is a new author for me and I plan to read some of her earlier books.

Buy Kate's War at Amazon

Max's War by Libby Fischer Hellmann

book cover of historical fiction novel Max's War by Libby Fischer Hellmann
April 2024; The Red Herrings Press
audio, ebook (418 pages), print; historical fiction

This new World War II novel looks at a little-known group called The Ritchie Boys.  The Ritchie Boys were a special collection of soldiers, mostly German, who worked with Military Intelligence.  They were used primarily for the interrogation of prisoners and counterintelligence in Europe and were successful because of their knowledge of the German language and culture.  The author mentions that this book is a tribute to her late father-in-law who was active with the OSS and interrogated dozens of German POWs.

Max is a Jewish teen and lives in Germany with his parents.  When the persecution of the Jews starts in Germany, they escape to Holland where they feel that they will be safe.  He starts his life over and finds friends and a girlfriend but when the Nazis invade Holland, his parents encourage him to go to the US to be safe.  He ends up in Chicago with distant family and tries to start his life over.  When he finds out that his parents have been killed in a camp, he decides to join the United States Army.    After basic training, he is sent to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, where he is trained in interrogation and counterintelligence. He is sent to Europe where he carries out dangerous missions in occupied countries.  He also interrogates many German POWs to find out what he can about German troop movements during some of the critical battles.  After the war ends, he works for the Americans in the German denazification program.  

This was an extremely well-written and well-researched novel about the war and the role of many German-born soldiers as they did their part to help end Nazi rule.  Max was a very well-written and interesting character.  He did what he could to help the United States as he dealt with the memories that he had of his parents and his years growing up in Germany.   It's emotional to read in parts especially when Max goes back to his home in Germany after the war and realizes that he barely recognizes what is left of his town.

If you enjoy WWII historical fiction, this is a book that you don't want to miss about a little-known group called the Ritchie Boys.

Buy Max's War at Amazon

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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