Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Five: Favorite World War I & II Books

Lately there seems to be a renewed interest in the two World Wars, at least a renewed popularity in books about them.  I'm sure thousands, if not millions, of books have been written and even though the more recent one has been over for over 70 years, there is still a bit of a fascination with that time in history.  I seem to keep reading these books and love learning about a more personal side of the war.  Of course I learned about it in school but that was more facts, not so much how people lived through it and after it.  My Grandpa served in World War II, as a pharmacist, and reading about this time makes me feel closer to him and my Grandma.  The war was one of my Grandpa's favorite topics in the last years of his life and I enjoyed hearing him share his stories, even if they tended to be the same ones over and over.  Reading these books gave the war a more personal side as well as a better understanding for that time that my Grandparents lived through. 

1) The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
This book was about exactly what the title says.  During the war many servicemen stationed overseas met, fell in love, and married local girls.  After the war, various governments paid for these wives to be shipped to their husband's native country.  In this case I believe it was native Australian women who were being shipped on a cargo ship to meet up with their husbands in their native England.  I had no idea this was something that happened!  This book follows 3 or 4 women on their ocean journey to meet up with husbands they haven't seen in awhile, and even then barely know, to a completely unknown future waiting them in a new county.  It was a very interesting look at a time in history I knew nothing about!

2) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This book is a big one and part of the reason I put off reading it for awhile.  It is the story of two sisters in occupied France during the war.  They have very different experiences.  The older sister has a young daughter and a husband who is off fighting.  She ends up having having a German officer board in her home (another thing I didn't know happened).  The younger sister wants to do "bigger" things and run off to help in her own way.  The sisters lives intertwine over the course of the war.  It is told through flashbacks as an older women is preparing to go back to France for some sort of reunion related to the war.  You know it's one of the sisters but not which one until the end.  This one was a little tougher to get through and a little more graphic but still so fascinating.  I had heard about various horrors of the war but this made it much more personal.

3) The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This is middle grade fiction and actually written by a friend of my sister-in-law(s) (although I've never met her personally).  Middle grade fiction means it pretty easy to read as an adult and a more...watered down version, nothing graphic.  It's about a brother and sister who are shipped out of London to the English countryside to protect them during the Blitz.  For many kids this meant being separated from their parents but it worked out well for these kids because their mom was not great.  The girl had a twisted foot that was never properly cared for and she was limited to her apartment in London before this adventure.  So between getting away from her horrible mother and actually having some freedom, this war really did save her life.  It was yet another side of a the war I hadn't heard of and reading it aimed at younger kids gave it a sweeter side.

4) A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
The big theme for this list seems to be parts of the wars I had no idea about and this is yet another.  Many American servicemen were buried overseas during both wars.  After WWI, the US government put together trips for their mothers' to visit the grave sites of their fallen sons.  This follows the trip of one group of mothers, how they bonded together over their shared loss as they made their journey together.  It's impossible to imagine the pain they had in losing their sons and having them buried on foreign land. 

5) When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning
I love to read, obviously, and hearing about books that were specifically made to be sent to soldiers stationed overseas was right in my interest.  At first librarians set up book drives to collect books to send to soldiers.  It turns out they didn't get a good variety and the hardback books were expensive to send.  Then the government teamed up with publishers to produce small paperback versions, made to fit in their pockets, of over a thousand titles, specifically to be sent overseas to soldiers.  They were sent by the boxes to various places and the books tells of soldiers eagerly awaiting the next shipment and then sharing the books as they finished.  It was another part of the war I knew nothing about and loved that these homesick soldiers were able to feel more comfortable with some books.  (This is something I did ask my Grandpa about after reading this but he didn't remember any books!)

Any other recommendations for these parts of history?  It can make for such rich storytelling with some extra education along the way!


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