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There’s nothing better than the drama and raw honesty behind the stories that are told through a historical fiction novel. Filled with adventurous moments that a reader can immerse themselves into fully, these type of books represent what good storytelling should be like and is all about.
Historical fiction is a genre I’ve only recently gotten into when it comes to reading, and I’ve come across some amazing new stories that take place during and after World War II. These stories captured me and interest me so much, especially when the books expressively represent such a devastating time in history.
I’ve compiled eight historical fiction reads that will surely capture your attention. Set aside some space and immerse yourself in these extremely intriguing stories set during and after World War II, seen through the eyes and background of characters falling in love, finding themselves, and demonstrating all manner of courage and bravery in the face of tragedy.
This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
This engaging YA historical fiction novel features a strong story set in the aftermath of WWII and showcases an even stronger character as the lead.
The book tells the story of Csilla. Set in the middle of Budapest, Csilla feels safety for her and her family from a river, one that kept them hidden from the horrors of the Holocaust. Yet, now the Communists are in power and her parents are gone, killed by the Soviet police. Overwhelmed, Csilla plans her escape from Budapest, yet there is a huge revolution brewing in Hungary. Now, Csilla must decide if she shall leave or stay to participate and try to protect her place and her own people with her support of this moment in time.
Filled with queer representation to boot and set in 1956, what follows is a story of conflict, finding strength within oneself, and the tenacity of young people attempting to lead a revolution, from a time that many not know about in history.
The Kew Gardens Girls At War by Posy Lovell
Set in London’s Kew Gardens during WWII, this tale is one that touches on themes of bravery and friendship during tough times.
The story follows two women that come together during the wartime while finding solace and a distraction by working at the Kew Gardens. Both dealing with tragedy in their lives, they actually represent the first female gardeners at the time, shifting ideas about gender-based ideals in the workforce with their courage and bravery.
The Kew Gardens are now an extremely popular tourist attraction in London, and this book promises a look at its history with heartwarming and true elements plus a group of women that found friendship and themselves while working at these gardens during times of intense war.
The Fervor by Alma Katsu
This cutting-edge story mixes thriller and horror elements with the impossibly harsh reality of Japanese American internment camps.
The story follows mother and daughter duo Meiko Briggs and Aiko, who are taken away to an internment camp from Seattle after Meiko’s husband became an air force pilot in the Pacific. Since their background is Japanese, they are considered a threat at the time by the American government and are now living their worst nightmare away from home. Suddenly, a strange illness that leads to extreme violence and aggression, and even at times death, takes over the camp, leading to even worse horrors and unexplained situations.
The story is inspired by Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, and adds in supernatural and eerie elements, as well as a loud cry and representation of human strength.
Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper
Featuring a story that showcases the strength of the often unsung heroes of World War II, this novel promises an honest look behind the scenes in the lives of some truly brave souls.
The heroes at the forefront of the story are World War II’s American Army nurses. At the time, they were known as the Angels of Bataan. The story also tells the tale of the important contributions of the Filipinas of the resistance. Nurses at the time, while not completely lauded, represented safety and hope as they took care of the hurt and struggling due to the tragic consequences of war. This seems like quite the perfect novel to give them a voice and let readers dig into their important part in history.
Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson
This debut historical fiction novel introduces us to some very important women who risked their lives during the times in World War II.
The story follows the true and not very known story of the Six Triple Eight. Main characters Grace Steele and Eliza Jones are part of this only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. Even though they come from extremely different backgrounds, they both join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and at the time become the only Black women to be a part of the army.
The book follows the 6888th Postal Battalion as they embark on a risky excursion to England and France, while everyone simply expects them not to make it and fail. All these women wanted during this experience was to make sure soldiers would get information from those loved ones waiting back home during World War II, making this a purely heart-filled mission for these women.
Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara
This World War II tale set in 1944 Chicago follows the story of Aki Ito and her parents. They were detained by the U.S. Government and put in Manzanar, where other Japanese Americans were put as well after the tragedy at Pearl Harbor. Once they are released, they relocate from California, where they used to reside before being captured, to live in Chicago. Aki is looking forward to reuniting with her sister, Rose, who was sent there. Yet, before they can even meet again, Rose is mysteriously hit and killed by a subway train. Not thinking it is strictly a coincidence or suicide, Aki decides to investigate what happened and why.
This dramatic tale promises engrossing storytelling and character development, perfect for a story set in this time period.
When the Summer Was Ours by Roxanne Veletzos
This novel seems extremely engrossing and romantic, as it follows star-crossed lovers dealing with World War II and the aftermath.
The story is set in Hungary. The year is 1943 when Eva César arrives at Sopron and looks forward to spending her last summer as a single girl at her sweeping family’s estate before agreeing to marry a sweet Red Cross doctor that she looks up to. It’s not exactly someone she is fully in love with, but she is ready for this change. Then, suddenly, her life course is altered when she stumbles upon Aleandro, a Romani fiddler and artist from a completely different world than hers. While she is surrounded by wealth, he is a man of a more humble background, yet she finds herself extremely drawn to him and immediately connects with him.
What follows is a love story that takes us all the way to the 1956 Hungarian uprising when acts of pure hatred come between the two, as these lovers from different sides learn that sometimes love is not enough, especially in times of war and conflict.
The Circus Train by Amita Parikh
This book follows the traveling circus World of Wonders, Europe’s largest traveling circus. Lena Papadopoulos is the daughter of the circus’ headlining illusionist, Theo. Yet she has never felt like she has fit in. The truth is, Lena’s true passion is the world of science and medicine, but her father does not allow her to explore other options.
Then Lena meets Alexandre, an orphan with big plans and hopes, and their friendship develops into something more over time. One day, Theo and Alexandre are arrested and their world changes completely: the Nazis have created a model town for Jews and they want to whisk the duo away to perform there. Lena decides to leave behind the world she was comfortable in and knows for a completely different environment where she must face the horrors of World War II, and the consequences that come with her current environment.
What other historical fiction reads have you read recently that you loved or are looking forward to in the near future? Let me know on Twitter @AuroraMiami or let us know @BookRiot.