Voices in Wartime

Adult Fiction--Trobaugh to Turtledove

Trobaugh, Augusta.  Sophie and the Rising Sun (Penguin Group, 2002).

Salty Creek is a sleepy Georgia town where everyone knows everyone else's business, along with their place in the hierarchy of color, class, and family history. Strangers rarely enter their midst, and a mysterious arrival in the spring of 1939 soon sets tongues wagging. A quiet, unassuming man with a secret history of his own, Mr. Oto is taken in as a gardener by Miss Anne, the town's conscience-and it's heart-with no illusions about Salty Creek or its inhabitants. One of these is Sophie, who lost her love during World War I and has resigned herself to a passionless existence taking care of her mother and maiden aunts. Then one day, she and Mr. Oto speak for the first time. To Mr. Oto, whose heart has been full from the moment he saw Sophie, it is one of life's miracles-when they finally break the silence of "the beauty of words unspoken."

When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and Mr. Oto's newfound life comes under siege, it is Miss Anne who once again comes to his rescue in an act of uncommon courage and sacrifice. As for Sophie, who has fallen in love with Mr. Oto, she must decide how much she is willing to risk for a future with this man who has brought such joy into her life.  

 

Trumbo, Dalton.  Night of the Aurochs (New York: Viking, 1979).

Night of the Aurochs is the story of Grieben, a Nazi in WWII who was Commandant of Auschwitz and who believed in the Fascist cause.

 

Tsukiyama, Gail.  The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (St. Martin’s Press, 2007).

It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at the national obsession of sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of creating hard-carved masks for actors in the Noh theater.

Across town, a renowned sumo master, Sho Tanaka, lives with his wife and their two young daughters: the delicate, daydreaming Aki and her independent sister, Haru. Life seems full of promise as Kenji begins an informal apprenticeship with the most famous mask-maker in Japan and Hiroshi receives a coveted invitation to train with Tanaka. But then Pearl Harbor changes everything. As the ripples of war spread to both families’ quiet neighborhoods, all of the generations must put their dreams on hold---and then find their way in a new Japan.  In an exquisitely moving story that spans almost thirty years, Gail Tsukiyama draws us irresistibly into the world of the brothers and the women who love them. It is a world of tradition and change, of heartbreaking loss and surprising hope, and of the impact of events beyond their control on ordinary, decent men and women. Above all, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms is a masterpiece about love and family from a glorious storyteller at the height of her powers.

 

Turow, Scott.  Ordinary Heroes (Grand Central Publishing, 2006).

Stewart Dubinsky knew his father had served in World War II. And he'd been told how David Dubin (as his father had Americanized the name that Stewart later reclaimed) had rescued Stewart's mother from the horror of the Balingen concentration camp. But when he discovers, after his father's death, a packet of wartime letters to a former fiancée, and learns of his father's court-martial and imprisonment, he is plunged into the mystery of his family's secret history and driven to uncover the truth about this enigmatic, distant man who'd always refused to talk about his war.

As he pieces together his father's past through military archives, letters, and, finally, notes from a memoir his father wrote while in prison, secretly preserved by the officer who defended him, Stewart starts to assemble a dramatic and baffling chain of events. He learns how Dubin, a JAG lawyer attached to Patton's Third Army and desperate for combat experience, got more than he bargained for when he was ordered to arrest Robert Martin, a wayward OSS officer who, despite his spectacular bravery with the French Resistance, appeared to be acting on orders other than his commanders'. In pursuit of Martin, Dubin and his sergeant are parachuted into Bastogne just as the Battle of the Bulge reaches its apex. Pressed into the leadership of a desperately depleted rifle company, the men are forced to abandon their quest for Martin and his fiery, maddeningly elusive comrade, Gita, as they fight for their lives through carnage and chaos, the likes of which Dubin could never have imagined.

 

Turtledove, Harry.  Drive to the East (Del Ray, 2006).

In 1914, the First World War ignited a brutal conflict in North America, with the United States finally defeating the Confederate States. In 1917, The Great War ended and an era of simmering hatred began, fueled by the despotism of a few and the sacrifice of many. Now it’s 1942. The USA and CSA are locked in a tangle of jagged, blood-soaked battle lines, modern weaponry, desperate strategies, and the kind of violence that only the damned could conjure up–for their enemies and themselves.

In Richmond, Confederate president and dictator Jake Featherston is shocked by what his own aircraft have done in Philadelphia–killing U.S. president Al Smith in a barrage of bombs. Featherston presses ahead with a secret plan carried out on the dusty plains of Texas, where a so-called detention camp hides a far more evil purpose. As the untested U.S. vice president takes over for Smith, the United States face a furious thrust by the Confederate army, pressing inexorably into Pennsylvania. But with the industrial heartland under siege, Canada in revolt, and U.S. naval ships fighting against the Japanese in the Sandwich Islands, the most dangerous place in the world may be overlooked.

 

Turtledove, Harry.  End of the Beginning (Roc, 2006).

The human price of war, regardless of nationality, is the relentless focus of this chilling sequel to Turtledove's alternative history Days of Infamy, in which the Japanese conquer Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Times are hard for Americans under the occupation. Scarce food and resources result in privation and a thriving black market. Japanese soldiers work POWs to death with heavy labor on insufficient rations. Women are forced into prostitution as comfort women. But the U.S. armed forces have a few tricks up their sleeve, notably a new kind of aircraft that can hold its own against the Zero. Both the Japanese and American militaries scheme, plan and train, while surfer bums, POWs and fishermen just try to get by. A plethora of characters, each with his or her own point of view, provide experiences in miniature that combine to paint a broad canvas of the titanic struggle, if at the cost of a fragmented narrative.

 

Turtledove, Harry.  Day of Infamy (Roc, 2005).

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched an attack against United States naval forces stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. But what if the Japanese followed up their air assault with an invasion and occupation of Hawaii? With American military forces subjugated and civilians living in fear of their conquerors, there is no one to stop the Japanese from using the islands' resources to launch an offensive against America's western coast.

 

 

Adult Fiction--Takeyama to Trammell

Takeyama, Michio.  Harp of Burma (Tuttle Publishing Co., 1981).

Near the end of World War II, the Japanese are facing defeat in Burma at the hands of the British Army. After Corporal Mizushima's unit surrenders he attempts to persuade other holdouts also to surrender without a struggle, now that the war is coming to an end. They refuse and in the final battle Mizushima is injured and rescued by a Buddhist monk. Thus begins a spiritual journey for Mizushima which ends with him adopting the robes of a monk and travelling the countryside, cremating and burying the war dead. 

 

Thackara, James.  America’s Children (Penguin Group, Reissue, 2002).

America's Children is a multi-layered story of Christian and Marxist values; of love of family and land; of invisible high-energy particles and Pentagon technocrats; of thrilling scientific discovery and the unspeakable reality of Hiroshima. The great classical myths of man's mastery over nature suffuse America's Children with a seductive, deathly glow. A novel for our age, America's Children is a sublime and truly American story of the theft of atomic fire, the agonies of political and moral conscience, and the future of our planet in a nuclear world.

 

Thackara, James.  Book of Kings (Penguin Group, Reissue, 2000).

James Thackara's epic novel The Book of Kings is set across the entire continent of Europe, as well as North and South America and North Africa, in the years shortly before and during World War II and leading up to the present day. The Book of Kings tracks Europe's drift toward Nazism from 1932, when a quartet of students at the Sorbonne - David and Johannes, both German; Justin, a French/Algerian scholarship student; and Duncan, an American with an attachment to "old" Europe - share an apartment on the rue de Fleurus. The Book of Kings sounds the fate of its characters far beyond their commonplace existence as it pursues the enduring questions of absolute evil and man's responsibility. In scenes ranging from the fall of France, the Moscow front, Silesia's camps, the siege of Berlin, and the Amazon rainforests, the design of the novel emerges to reveal civilization strung between its two mortal tendencies, first in the thrall of an irresistible attraction toward cataclysm, then returning from destruction toward redemption.

 

Thirkell, Angela Mackail.  Miss Bunting (Moyer Bell, 1996).

From the '30s to the '60s, Thirkell wrote a novel a year, most of which were set in an updated version of Trollope's Barsetshire. This installment, originally published in 1945 is a mild and rather obvious comedy of manners set during one summer late in WWII, when traditional order is being brought to an end by the rise of industrial wealth and the damages inflicted by six years of war. The story revolves around a wide group of the upper class--primarily landowners and clergymen--who have dominated this small town, and how they will respond to arrival of a coarse but dynamic industrial tycoon. Miss Bunting is an elderly ex-governess who has been hired by one family to instruct and care for their 17-year-old daughter, Anne. There are numerous characters in the novel, some dashing in and out of the narrative with such speed that the only thing they contribute is the memory of a vaguely humorous name. Some will find the book dated, but for Thirkell's many readers in this country, it will be a welcome addition to the growing library of her work.  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Thoene, Bodie.  The Twilight of Courage (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1996).

The Twilight of Courage is a retelling of World War II that intertwines the stories of two American journalists' escape from the collapse of Warsaw, with those of an orphaned baby's journey to Jerusalem, a mathematician's attempt to crack Nazi code, and more.

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Dunkirk Crescendo (Zion Covenant Series #7-9) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

This description covers #7 London Refrain, #8 Paris Encore, and #9 Dunkirk Crescendo. These three additions to the Zion Covenant series are "director's cuts." They include portions of the Thoene classic The Twilight of Courage and thrilling, never-before-published scenes with the characters you've come to know and love. Readers will finally know the fates of Jacob and Lori Kalner from Warsaw Requiem and meet for the first time David Meyer from The Zion Chronicles, plus Madame Rose Smith and Jerome Jardin from The Zion Legacy and, most importantly, Rachel and Yacov Lubetkin, the heroes of The Zion Chronicles series. Study questions included. 

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Warsaw Requiem (Zion Covenant Series #6) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

Book 6 of The Zion Covenant series. Heroic efforts are underway to save as many Jewish children as possible while the escalation of brutality portends an international nightmare.

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Danzig Passage (Zion Covenant Series #5) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

This sequel to Jerusalem Interlude focuses on two families during the early years of Hitler's regime. The Ibsen family has helped Jews, and two members of the mafily have been arrested. The Ibsen children are seeking a way to escape the Nazis. Peter Wallich, a Jew, is trying to escape from Berlin with his family.

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Jerusalem Interlude (Zion Covenant Series #4) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

For Jews in prewar Europe, the terrifying truth is uncovered: Truly they have no place to go. Escape or perish, but escape to where? As Central Europe is taken over by the Nazis under celebrated headlines of Peace in Our Times, hundreds of thousands pay the price for Hitler’s international deception. In Jerusalem Interlude, Leah and Shimon Feldstein finally reach the Promised Land. They enter their new life under the shadow of the Western Wall, only to find that a longer, more sinister shadow is casting its darkness over the Holy Land. Will they ever find true peace, a resting place for their spirits? Or will their time in Jerusalem be only a brief interlude in the ongoing struggle for a homeland?

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Munich Signature (Zion Covenant Series #3) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

Book 3 in the compelling Zion Covenant series, the thrilling sequel to Prague Counterpoint. Elisa Murphy holds information that might be a key to stopping Hitler.

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Prague Counterpoint (Zion Covenant Series #2) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

In this sequel to the Vienna Prelude, Elisa Lendheim is caught in the center of violence that sweeps Europe as Hitler's plan to annihilate the Jews unfolds.

 

Thoene, Bodie and Brock.  Vienna Prelude (Zion Covenant Series #1) (Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).

Book 1 in the compelling Zion Covenant series. Her own identity was safely disguised. But what about those she loved most?

 

Thomas, Evan.  Sea of Thunder (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Evan Thomas takes us inside the naval war of 1941-1945 in the South Pacific in a way that blends the best of military and cultural history and riveting narrative drama. He follows four men throughout: Admiral William ("Bull") Halsey, the macho, gallant, racist American fleet commander; Admiral Takeo Kurita, the Japanese battleship commander charged with making what was, in essence, a suicidal fleet attack against the American invasion of the Philippines; Admiral Matome Ugaki, a self-styled samurai who was the commander of all kamikazes and himself the last kamikaze of the war; and Commander Ernest Evans, a Cherokee Indian and Annapolis graduate who led his destroyer on the last great charge in the last great naval battle in history. Sea of Thunder climaxes with the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the biggest naval battle ever fought, over four bloody and harrowing days in October 1944. We see Halsey make an epic blunder just as he reaches for true glory; we see the Japanese navy literally sailing in circles, torn between the desire to die heroically and the exhausted, unacceptable realization that death is futile; we sail with Commander Evans and the men of the USS Johnston into the jaws of the Japanese fleet and exult and suffer with them as they torpedo a cruiser, bluff and confuse the enemy—and then, their ship sunk, endure fifty horrific hours in shark-infested water.

 

Thorpe, Adam.  The Rules of Perspective (Picador, Re-issue, 2007).

On April 3, 1945, the advancing American army shells the historic town of Lohenfelde, and the Kaiser-Wilhelm museum. Within the museum's vaults, Heinrich Hoffer is hiding from the bombardment, and trying to keep a priceless Van Gogh from falling into the hands of a rogue Nazi. After the shelling, an American corporal, Neal Parry, finds a beautiful eighteenth-century oil painting in the rubble, and must confront both its beauty, and the morality of stealing it. The stories of Herr Hoffer, Parry, and their paintings unfold simultaneously in this gripping, brilliantly structured novel about art and war.

 

Trammell, Jack.  Saints Departed (Hard Shell Word Factory, 2001).

During World War II, occupied Paris was a city filled with people acting contrary to their better natures. The Saints Departed, is a novel of these ordinary/extraordinary people and their supreme moments when regimes could suddenly topple, leaders falter, and the course of war irrevocably change direction. Based on many factual plots and stories, The Saints Departed centers around an ill-fated love affair between an overconfident German agent and a female French Resistance fighter bent on revenge, who find themselves entwined in a massive conspiracy that will end either with Hitler's death and a pre-invasion peace with the Allies, or a persecution of the French people far worse than anything imaginable.

 

Adult Fiction-Shreve to Sundaresan

Shreve, Anita. (Little, Brown and Company, Reprint, 2006).

As she has done in her novels Eden Close, Strange Fits of Passion, and Where or When, Anita Shreve once again leads readers into a harrowing world where lives are catastrophically overturned by emotion. Set in a Belgian village amid the wreckage of World War II, Resistance is a powerful exploration of passion, self-discovery, and sacrifice from one of our most accomplished storytellers. Just as the Nazi occupation forces have drained her village of coffee, meat, and chocolate, the war has also depleted whatever joy there may have been in Claire Daussois's marriage. On their small farm in the south of Belgium, Claire and her husband, Henri, shelter refugees - Jews, Allied pilots, and fleeing Belgian soldiers - before passing them along toward France and freedom. Claire nurses the wounded, acts as interpreter, and waits for the war to end - and, in a way she finds difficult to admit even to herself, for her own life to change. And it does, when an American B-17 bomber is downed near their village. The pilot, badly injured, is found by a young boy who turns to Claire for help in saving him. Henri is away on Resistance work. As the pilot heals and recovers in her attic hiding place, Claire begins to awaken to the possibility of love. Over the course of a mere twenty days, closed off from the world and the war in her farmhouse, Claire and Lieutenant Ted Brice experience a life-changing passion that neither has felt before. That their love is also haunted and impossible only makes it more precious. The war recedes in the face of their joy - before imposing itself once more with shocking suddenness and inconceivable horror. Resistance is the story of a young Belgian woman, an American pilot, and the small war-torn village that shelters them. Richly peopled and fearlessly, gorgeously passionate, it is a powerful exploration of emotion at odds with commitment.

 

Shute, Nevil.  Pied Piper (House of Stratus, 2000).

It is the summer of 1940 and in Europe the time of Blitzkreig. John Howard, a 70-year-old Englishman vacationing in France, cuts shorts his tour and heads for home. He agrees to take two children with him. But war closes in. Trains fail, roads clog with refugees. And if things were not difficult enough, other children join in Howard's little band. At last they reach the coast and find not deliverance but desperation. The old Englishman's greatest test lies ahead of him. 

 

Shute, Nevil.  Pastoral (House of Stratus, New edition, 2000).

From an Oxfordshire air base, Wellington bombers fly missions into Germany. Only a handful of crews have survived the war long enough to become experienced. Peter Marshall is captain of one crew. When he falls in love with Gervase, her rebuff nearly costs him his concentration and life. Their relationship blossoms when he has only five more missions to go. As they tick by, tension mounts.

 

Shute, Nevil.  A Town Like Alice (Ballantine Books, 1987).

A Town Like Alice tells of a young woman who miraculously survived a Japanese "death march" in World War II, and of an Australian soldier, also a prisoner of war, who offered to help her--even at the cost of his life.

 

Shute, Nevil.  The Chequer Board (William Morrow and Company, 1947).

The Chequer Board is sympathetic to the plight of black soldiers in World War II, and is even supportive of interracial marriages (the African American character marries a British girl from Cornwall, while the British flyer marries a Burmese woman), nonetheless the racist language makes for some discomfiting reading.  (www.booklust.wetpaint.com)

 

Silva, Daniel.  The Unlikely Spy (Signet, 2003).

"In wartime," Winston Churchill wrote, "truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." For Britain's counterintelligence operations, this meant finding the unlikeliest agent imaginable-a history professor named Alfred Vicary, handpicked by Churchill himself to expose a highly dangerous, but unknown, traitor. The Nazis, however, have also chosen an unlikely agent: Catherine Blake, a beautiful widow of a war hero, a hospital volunteer-and a Nazi spy under direct orders from Hitler to uncover the Allied plans for D-Day.

 

Signoret, Simone.  Adieu, Volodya (Random House, 1988).

When she completed this novel in September 1984, the actress may well have known she hadn't long to live. The foreknowledge of her death may account for the sense her novel conveys of striving to get everything said while there was still time. Without being directly autobiographical, this generational saga has the feel of absolute fidelity to ancestral history. Two Jewish families, one from the Ukraine, the other from Poland, both in flight from anti-Semitic pogroms, settle in Paris after the Russian Revolution. Their children carry the weight of the richly detailed, densely factual narrative as their own lives trace the trajectory of European history through the following decades. They come of age during the rise of Nazism, experience the excrescence of French anti-Semitism, the Spanish Civil War and the Popular Front, the fall of France and the German Occupation, deportations, the Resistance and liberation. A multitude of details tends to slow the pace and minor digressions abound; sometimes the telling is flat and reportorial, dutiful rather than necessary. But these are relatively minor flaws in a deep-running, sensitive novel we should be grateful to have. (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Sinclair, Upton.  Dragon’s Teeth (Viking Press, 1942).

Sinclair won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943 for his novel Dragon's Teeth (1942) about the Nazi takeover of Germany. It is the third of eleven novels in Sinclair's World's End series following globe-trotter Lanny Budd and his adventures of derring-do. In Dragon's Teeth he acts as secret agent, infiltrates Hitler's most intimate circle, and reports back to President Roosevelt. Sinclair caused much controversy and change in his lifetime, widely read in North and South America, Europe, and Russia. 

 

Slovo, Gillian.  Ice Road (W.W. Norton and Company, 2005).

Loyalties, beliefs, love, family ties: all are tested to the limit in one of the most devastating moments of human history: the siege of Leningrad during World War II. Boris Aleksandrovich, a well-meaning bureaucrat, thinks he can negotiate between idealism and politics. His daughter, Natasha, learns otherwise when, as a young woman in love, she is almost crushed by her father's compromises. Watching all this unfold is Irina. Wise, ironic, marvelous Irina, whom Boris had persuaded to go on an ill-fated voyage to the Arctic Circle, where she barely survived. When she arrives back in Leningrad, he feels honor bound to find her a position within his family circle. Irina comes to understand how love for another may, in the end, be more powerful and more profound than blind loyalty to an idea. Exciting and heroic, peopled with wonderfully complex characters, Ice Road is a masterpiece.

 

Smith, Martin Cruz.  December 6 (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

Set in the crazed, nationalistic Tokyo of late 1941, December 6 explores the coming world war through the other end of history's prism—a prism held here by an unforgettable rouge and lover, Harry Niles. In many ways, Niles is as American as apple pie: raised by ultra-protective missionary parents, taught to honor and respect his elders and be an upright Christian citizen. But Niles is also Japanese: reared in the aesthetics od Shinto and educated in the dance halls and back room poker gatherings of Tokyo's shady underworld. As a gaijin, a foreigner—especially one with a gift for the artful scam—he draws susupicion and disfavor from Japanese police. This potent mixture of stiff tradition and intrigue—not to mention his brazen love affair with a Japanese mistress who would rather kill Harry than lose him—fills Harry's final days in Tokyo with suspense and fear. Who is he really working for? Is he a spy? For America? For the Emperor? 

Now, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, Harry himself must decide where his true allegiances lie. Suspensful, exciting, and replete with detailed research Martin Cruz Smith brings to all his novels, December 6 is a triumph of imagination, history, and storytelling melded into a magnificent whole.

 

Smith, Martin Cruz.  Stallion Gate (Pan Books, New edition, 1996).

In a New Mexico blizzard, four men cross a barbed-wire fence at Stallion Gate to select a test site for the first atomic weapon. They are Oppenheimer, the physicist; Groves, the general; Fuchs, the spy. The fourth man is Sergeant Joe Pena, an Indian, and a man of great complexity—warrior, musician, hero and informer.  Los Alamos lies on a mesa surrounded by a vast Indian reservation. It is the most secret installation of the war, the future encompassed by the past. It is also a magnet to soldiers, roughnecks and scientists, including Anna Weiss, a beautiful and talented refugee with whom Joe falls deeply in love. 

 

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New edition, 2005).

From the icy blast of reveille through the sweet release of sleep, Ivan Denisovich endures. A common carpenter, he is one of millions viciously imprisoned for countless years on baseless charges, sentenced to the waking nightmares of the Soviet work camps in Siberia. Even in the face of degrading hatred, where life is reduced to a bowl of gruel and a rare cigarette, hope and dignity prevail. This powerful novel of fact is a scathing indictment of Communist tyranny, and an eloquent affirmation of the human spirit.

 

Spencer, James.  The Pilots (Berkeley Trade, 2004).

During World War II, James Spencer was a cocky, risk-addicted young pilot who lived with death every day-but considered it a privilege to fly the B-24s that helped win the war in the Pacific. The extraordinary result is The Pilots, a novel-in-stories about young flyers locked in almost-daily aerial combat, living their off-hours as if they were their last-and the women who endure the pain of attachment to men whose life expectancies may be measured in weeks and days. Alive with the horrors of war and the sheer exhilaration of those who live, breathe and dream of flying, The Pilots introduces us to bomber pilot Blake Hurlingame and his boyhood friend, fighter ace Steve Larkin, who is captured by a strange, savage tribe that may trade him to the Japanese-or use him as food; Doc, whose concern for his men is unhinging his sanity; Courtney, the arrogant, reckless captain with inner demons behind his movie-star good looks; and heartbreaking Addie-who will leave her mark on them all.

 

Stein, Robert.  Vengeance Equation (Press-Tige Publishing Company, 2000).

Robert Savy, a Parisian Jew—hidden as a Catholic child during the Holocaust by a French husband and wife—inherits two million dollars in diamonds. When his clever investments build further fortune, he leads a worldwide hunt as the multinational billionaire, seeking retribution for his murdered family.  Inspired by the 44-year, worldwide manhunt for Paul Touvier—the most wanted war criminal in French history—this story is fast-paced and riveting.

 

Stephenson, Neal.  Cryptonomicon (Avon, Reprint, 2002).

Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods--World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, cryptanalyst extraordinaire, and gung ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They're part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702, and he explains the unit's strange workings to Waterhouse. "When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first.... Of course, to observe is not its real duty--we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed.... Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious." 

All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroe—inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe—team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers. To top off the paranoiac tone of the book, the mysterious Enoch Root, key member of Detachment 2702 and the Societas Eruditorum, pops up with an unbreakable encryption scheme left over from WWII to befuddle the 1990s protagonists with conspiratorial ties. 

 

Stevenson, D.E.  The English Air (Grosset and Dunlap, Inc., 1940).

Theme is the story of war between England and German with characters of love story derived from the English countryside and Nazi Germany—discovery of the true meaning of "freedom".

 

Styron, William.  Sophie's Choice (Vintage, New edition, 2005).

Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman's past—one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction.  One of the two or three finest novels about the Holocaust, Sophie's Choice encapsulates through Sophie's anguished story the sweep and brutality of history.

 

Sundaresan, Indu.  The Splendor of Silence (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Sundaresan (A Feast of Roses) returns to her native India for a sprawling story of forbidden love set against the backdrop of WWII and the struggle for Indian independence. U.S. Army Capt. Sam Hawthorne comes to the small kingdom of Rudrakot in the Sukh desert of western India, ostensibly to recover from an injury suffered during a rescue mission behind Japanese lines in Burma. Sam has secrets, however. He's a spy, a member of the fledgling OSS, and he's looking for his brother Mike, who disappeared while serving in a local regiment, the Rudrakot Rifles, where "even his name was false." Complicating matters, Sam has a brief but torrid affair with Mila, the daughter of the kingdom's Indian political agent, who is betrothed to the local prince. As Sam plots to free his brother from a nearby detention center, Mila's brother Ashok becomes involved in a nationalist plot to bomb the car of the local British representative in Rudrakot. The myriad subplots and some overwriting detract, but Sundaresan renders Rudrakot vividly and the sympathetic (if doomed) characters generate enough friction to keep the pot boiling. (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Adult Fiction--Sanchez to Shires

Sanchez, Thomas.  Days of the Bee (Knopf Publishing Group, 2001).

In this story of an astonishing love, Thomas Sanchez portrays the violence, hope, and grandeur of lives transformed by war and exile. At the heart of the novel are Zermano, a world-famous Spanish painter, and his beautiful French muse, Louise Collard — whose lives are torn apart by the German invasion of France in World War II. Leaving Louise in Vichy-controlled Provence, Zermano returns to occupied Paris. But while he eventually goes on to celebrity and fortune, Louise disappears into obscurity.

Fifty years later, after Louise's death, an American scholar arrives in the south of France seeking the truth about the lovers' tempestuous romance and sudden separation. Why did the painter abandon the young beauty? What was the cause of her lifelong reclusiveness? What dark mysteries were being concealed by the ill-fated couple? By chance, the professor finds a cache of correspondence — Zermano's letters to Louise in her remote mountain village, and her intentionally unmailed letters to him in Paris. In their vivid, wrenching contents he uncovers secrets that Louise kept even from Zermano about her wartime experience: the dangers of her participation in the Resistance, and her complicity with one of its leaders, the Fly; her struggles to elude a sadistic officer who hunts her for political and personal reasons; her lyrical intimacy with a mystical beekeeper. Louise is forced to make a fateful decision between the love for her man, and the ultimate sacrifice for her country.

 

Schlink, Bernard.  The Reader (Vintage, 1999).

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover--then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

 

Schneider, Russ.  Siege: A Novel of the Eastern Front, 1942 (Presidio Press; Reprint edition, 2004).

On January 21, 1942, more than five thousand exhausted German soldiers– fragments of retreating units–found themselves surrounded in the arctic northern Russian town of Cholm. Trapped in an area barely two kilometers wide, the freezing, starving men held out for 105 days, repelling endless infantry attacks and dozens of tank assaults. Fifteen hundred Germans died before relief finally arrived on May 5, but for those still able to fight, an even worse ordeal lay ahead–the siege of Fortress Velikiye Luki.

Following the fates of three ordinary Germans through these epic struggles, Russ Schneider captures the ferocity and titanic cruelty of a war that pushed men to the very edge of madness. Millions perished on the Russian Front during World War II. Siege is a searing testament to the forgotten men who strove valiantly, if in vain, against impossible odds.

 

Schwarz-Bart, Andre.  The Last of the Just (Overlook, New edition, 2000).

In every generation, according to Jewish tradition, thirty-six "just men" are born to take the burden of the world's suffering upon themselves. This powerful and austere novel tells the story of Ernie Levy, the last of the just, who died at Auschwitz in 1943.

 

Seiffert, Rachel.  Dark Room (Knopf Publishing Group, 2002).

A boy born with a physical deformity finds work as a photographer's assistant during the 1930s and captures on film the changing temper of Berlin, the city he loves. But his acute photographic eye never provides him with the power to understand the significance of what he sees through his camera. In the weeks following Germany's surrender, a teenage girl whose parents are both in Allied captivity takes her younger siblings on a terrifying, illegal journey through the four zones of occupation in search of her grandmother. Many years after the event, a young man trying to discover why the Russians imprisoned his grandfather for nine years after the war meets resistance at every turn; the only person who agrees, reluctantly, to help him has his own tainted past to contend with.

 

 

Serge, Victor.  The Unforgiving Years (NYRB, 2008).

Born in Brussels of Russian revolutionary exiles, Serge (1890–1947) has long had a reputation as polemicist and journalist, but this powerful novel of the descent into WWII makes a strong case for his political fiction. In the pressured atmosphere just preceding the outbreak of war, a secret agent, D., breaks with the Organization—Stalin's spy network—and escapes from Paris with his lover, Nadine. With extreme paranoia that he cloaks in exquisite manners, D. tells only one person where they are going: an old comrade named Daria. In the next, flash-forward section, Daria, having been arrested, is released from exile in a Soviet backwater and thrust into the siege of Leningrad. The third section opens in 1945 Berlin, where Daria witnesses a host of Germans, injured and half crazy, try to survive aerial bombardment—a moment that, as W.G. Sebald noted, has been deeply underserved by literature. In the final section, Daria escapes Europe and follows D. and Nadine to Mexico, escaping (she thinks) the long reach of Stalin's agents. Serge remains sophisticated even during the book's more noirish moments, and action sequences form an inseparable part of his hypnotic, prophetic vision.  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 


Serge, Victor.  The Case of Comrade Tulayev (New York Review Books Classics, 2004).

One cold Moscow night, Comrade Tulayev, a high government official, is shot dead on the street, and the search for the killer begins. In this panoramic vision of the Soviet Great Terror, the investigation leads all over the world, netting a whole series of suspects whose only connection is their innocence—at least of the crime of which they stand accused. But The Case of Comrade Tulayev, unquestionably the finest work of fiction ever written about the Stalinist purges, is not just a story of a totalitarian state. Marked by the deep humanity and generous spirit of its author, the legendary anarchist and exile Victor Serge, it is also a classic twentieth-century tale of risk, adventure, and unexpected nobility to set beside Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and André Malraux's Man's Fate.

 

Shaara, Jeff.  The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II (Random House, 2007).

Shaara (To the Last Man; Gone for Soldiers), who has written bestselling and critically acclaimed historical novels covering the American Revolution through World War I, takes on World War II in the wonderful first volume of a planned trilogy. As the book begins, Hitler's forces control Western Europe, and U.S. troops face off against the Germans in North Africa. From fall 1942 through spring 1943, the Allies battle Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps. Shaara evokes the agony of desert warfare and the utter chaos of an airborne assault through the experiences of Pvt. Jack Logan, a tank gunner, and Sgt. Jesse Adams, a paratrooper. The challenges-and frequent frustrations-of command are seen through the eyes of such luminaries as generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton and Rommel. The Allied victory in Africa is followed by the conquest of Sicily and the invasion of mainland Italy in 1943. With the Italian campaign sputtering, the Allies turn to planning for the decisive event of the European theater, the cross-channel invasion of France, which is where Shaara concludes this sprawling, masterful opening act.  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Shaw, Charles.  Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (Popular Library, 1963).

Corporal Allison, a U.S. Marine, arrives on an island in the Pacific in a rubber raft, a survivor of a sunken destroyer. He finds an abandoned settlement and a chapel with one occupant: Sister Angela, a novice nun who has not yet taken her final vows. For a while they have the island to themselves, but then a detachment of Japanese troops arrives to set up a meteorological camp, forcing them to hide in a cave. 

 

Shaw, Irwin.  The Young Lions (University of Chicago Press, New edition, 2000).

The Young Lions is a vivid and classic novel that portrays the experiences of ordinary soldiers fighting World War II. Told from the points of view of a perceptive young Nazi, a jaded American film producer, and a shy Jewish boy just married to the love of his life, Shaw conveys, as no other novelist has since, the scope, confusion, and complexity of war.

 

Sheers, Owen.  Resistance (Nan A. Talese, 2008).

1944. After the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, a German counterattack lands on British soil. Within a month, half of Britain is occupied. The seat of British government has fled to Worcester, Churchill to Canada. A network of British resistance cells is all that is left to defy the German army. Against this backdrop, Resistance opens with Sarah Lewis, a twenty-six-year-old farmer’s wife, waking to find her husband, Tom, has disappeared. She is not alone, as all the other women in the Welsh border valley of Olchon wake to find their husbands gone. With this sudden and unexplained absence, the women regroup as an isolated, all-female community and wait, hoping for news.
Later, a German patrol arrives in the valley, the purpose of their mission a mystery. When a severe winter forces the two groups together, a fragile mutual dependency develops. Sarah begins a faltering acquaintance with the patrol’s commanding officer, Albrecht Wolfram, and it is to her that he reveals the purpose of the patrol. But as the pressure of the war beyond presses in on this isolated community, this fragile state of harmony is increasingly threatened.

Imbued with immense imaginative breadth and confidence, Owen Sheers’s debut novel unfolds with the pace and intensity of a thriller. A hymn to the glorious landscape of the Welsh border territories and a portrait of a community under siege, Resistance is a first novel of grace and power.

 

Shires, Reginald.  At the Age of Love (AuthorHouse, 2006).

At the Age for Love, A novel of Bangalore during World War II, is an extraordinary story of a soldier''s family waiting for his safe return from the Africa Front where he serves with a British tank unit pressing hard against the Germans in the desert of Libya. The chronicle begins with the soldier, Capt. Edward Thompson, saying goodbye to his wife Amelia and son Paddy and ends with his return at the end of the war. The story, narrated in incredible detail, tells how the boy and his mother with their relatives and friends live in this hectic military city in South India, where those who stay behind are swept along into the rushing, wild stream of British history in India during a time of war. The lives of these women--and their children--provide a bold story of Anglo-India in this multihued Indian landscape where rogues and villains and the honest, hard-working, church-going, form relationships in this bold saga as men and women cross family and racial boundaries in their search for love. The city of Bangalore with its cluster of towns around British army barracks comes alive with memorable characters and this novel follows their tense and gripping relationships. The ending, where these fun-loving characters come together in a frail boat on the peaceful Cauvery River at Seringapatnam near sunset, has much to say about life and the human mystery and the vision it offers us as we live in a changing world.

 

Adult Fiction--Robbins to Ryan

Robbins, David L.  The Assassins Gallery (Bantam, 2006).

New Year’s Eve, 1945. The assassin steps out of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of a raging nor’easter. Cool and efficient, she’s a weapon of war superbly trained in the ancient arts of subterfuge and murder. And even though she’s outnumbered, she’s got one major advantage: No one knows she’s coming. Professor Mikhal Lammeck’s specialty is the history and weaponry of assassins. But even Lammeck is caught off guard when the Secret Service urgently requests his help: A gruesome double murder and suicide in Massachusetts has set off alarm bells. It’s only a hunch, but all too soon Lammeck suspects the unthinkable.

In the waning days of the war, someone wants one last shot to alter history. An assassin is headed to Washington, D.C., to kill the most important soldier of them all: the U.S. commander in chief. As Lammeck and a killer at the top of her profession circle the streets of the capital in the hunt for FDR, one of them will attempt to kill the world’s most powerful man; the other, to save him. And between them, for an instant, history will hang in the balance.

 

Robbins, David L.  War of the Rats (Bantam, 2000).

For six months in 1942, Stalingrad is the center of a titanic struggle between the Russian and German armies—the bloodiest campaign in mankind's long history of warfare. The outcome is pivotal. If Hitler's forces are not stopped, Russia will fall. And with it, the world....

German soldiers call the battle Rattenkrieg, War of the Rats. The combat is horrific, as soldiers die in the smoking cellars and trenches of a ruined city. Through this twisted carnage stalk two men—one Russian, one German—each the top sniper in his respective army. These two marksmen are equally matched in both skill and tenacity. Each man has his own mission: to find his counterpart—and kill him.   But an American woman trapped in Russia complicates this extraordinary duel. Joining the Russian sniper's cadre, she soon becomes one of his most talented assassins—and perhaps his greatest weakness. Based on a true story, this is the harrowing tale of two adversaries enmeshed in their own private war—and whose fortunes will help decide the fate of the world.

 

Robbins, David L.  The End of War (Bantam, 2001).

The war draws to a close, but the fight for a vanquished city—and for history—is just beginning.  In the final months of the war in Europe, the last act of a five-year conflagration is about to be played out. As Allied generals surround the mortally wounded Nazi military machine, strategies are being formed on a greater scale than even generals can imagine.

While Churchill fumes helplessly, Roosevelt makes crucial decisions that will cede Berlin to Stalin and the Russians. The stakes are no less critical for ordinary men and women, fighting to live another day....From the chaos of the eastern front, to the desperation of a single Jewish man hidden in a Berlin basement, to the burning ambition of an American photojournalist, Robbins animates the giants who shaped history and breathes life into the heartbreaking struggles of those who merely lived it.

 

Robbins, David L.  The Citadel (Orion Paperback, New edition, 2004).

After the cataclysmic fall of Stalingrad, Germany's campaign in Russia stood on a knife's edge.  Hitler had to break Russia quickly or the war would be over. Thus 'Operation Citadel' was conceived. This was a plan to eliminate the huge salient around the Russian city of Kursk and trap the enormous Soviet Army in a noose of German steel. The only trouble was that the Russians knew it was coming....A powerful look into the maelstrom of the greatest battle in history, Last Citadel follows the story through the eyes of a remarkable group of people—the men and women who fought for family, pride, country and, finally, for survival . . ..

 

Robbins, David L.  Liberation Road (Bantam, Reprint Edition, 2005).

June 1944. The Allies deliver a staggering blow to Hitler's Atlantic fortress, leaving the beaches and bluffs of Normandy strewn with corpses. The Germans have only one chance to stop the immense invasion—by bottling up the Americans on the Cotentin Peninsula. There, in fields crisscrossed with dense hedgerows, many will meet their death while others will search for signs of life. Among the latter are two very different men, each with his own demons to fight and his own reasons to risk his life for his fellow man. Joe Amos Biggs is an invisible "colored" driver in the Red Ball Express, the unheralded convoy of trucks that serves as a precious lifeline to the front. Delivering fuel and ammunition to men whose survival depends on the truckers, Joe Amos finds himself hungering to make his mark and propelled into battle among those who don't see him as an equal—but will need him to be a hero. A chaplain in the demoralized 90th Infantry, Rabbi Ben Kahn is a veteran of the First Great War and old enough to be the father of the GIs he tends. Searching for the truth about his own son, a downed pilot missing in action, Kahn finds himself dueling with God, wading into combat without a gun, and becoming a leader among men in need of someone—anyone—to follow. The prize: the liberation of Paris, where a ruthless American traitor known as Chien Blanc—White Dog—grows fat and rich in the black market. Whatever the occupied city's destiny, destroyed or freed, he will win. The fates of these three men will collide, hurtling toward an uncommon destiny in which people commit deeds they cannot foresee and can never truly explain. From the screams of German .88 howitzers to the last whispers of dying young soldiers, Robbins captures war in all its awful fullness. And through the eyes of his unique characters, he leaves us with a mature, brilliant, and memorable vision of humanity in the face of inhumanity itself.

 

Robinson, Derek.  Piece of Cake (Cassell, New Edition, 2003).

Vivid and unforgettable, this popular novel follows an RAF fighter squadron during the Battle for France and the Battle of Britain. These pilots are real human beings, not two-dimensional heroes. Unconvinced of the wisdom of their leaders, they concentrate only on staying alive and on forgetting their fears of being burned to death in their planes. Some turn to drink, some turn on their compatriots in order to survive, and others score a succession of aerial victories—while acting unforgivably on the ground.

 

Rosenbaum, Ray.  Condors (Lyford Books, 1995).

In this fast-paced, action/adventure story by the author of Hawks and Falcons--a veteran pilot who saw action in three wars--the heart-stopping suspense swirls across two continents as supporters of David Ben-Gurion's Haganah battle formidable odds and the calendar to establish a Zionist state.

 

Ross, Joel N.  White Flag Down (Doubleday Publishing, 2007).

June of 1941, two years after signing a on-Aggression Pact, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Within six months, the Russians lost a thousand miles and three million men—and in, 1942, the relentless German Wehrmacht swept into Stalin’s namesake city, Stalingrad. Combat seethed in the city streets, ten thousand Soviet soldiers died in one day fighting for a single hill. Now, in mid-September 1942, Hitler orders a final offensive’ to capture Stalingrad. Yet on October 7t, the German army pauses. As General von Richthofen, commander of the Luftwaffe, writes in his diary: “Absolute quiet at Stalingrad.”

 

Ross, Joel N.  Double Cross Blind (Random House, 2005).

On the morning of December 1, 1941, at the start of Ross's debut thriller, American Thomas Wall wakes up in a London hospital, where he's recovering from wounds he suffered as a member of a Canadian unit massacred in battle on Crete. Thomas blames his diplomat brother, Earl, for betraying his unit to the Nazis and wants to know where Earl is. Later that day, a British intelligence officer persuades Thomas to pose as his brother in order to pump a captured German spy. Aware of Thomas's identity, the spy sets him on the trail of hidden microfilm containing information regarding the upcoming Japanese attack in the Pacific. Thomas attempts to enlist the aid of Earl's wife, Harriet, but as she works for British intelligence, she has her own plans. A by-the-numbers plot, clich d minor characters (including cockney hit men and a gold-hearted stripper), protagonists as unlikable as the antagonists and a foreseeable conclusion (hint: America will go to war) all add up to a routine read. (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Rozier, Gilles.  The Mercy Room (Little, Brown and Company, 2006).

A brilliant exploration of sexual obsession and human frailty in a country gripped by war. In a small town in occupied France during World War II, a teacher of German is recruited by the Gestapo to translate sensitive documents. Every week, waiting for the next assignment, our narrator sits outside the commandant's office and watches prisoners being led to detention cells before being deported. Always existing on the fringes of life, caring only for books, the teacher has never done anything heroic. And certainly this is no time to get entangled in other people's problems. But one day a stunning Jewish soldier is among the prisoners. His name is Herman and the teacher recognizes him from their lives before the war. In an unprecedented act of boldness, the teacher sneaks Herman out of headquarters, brings him home, and hides him in the cellar, along with a cache of banned books. So begins an extraordinary and shattering affair in which two people and two antagonistic languages, Yiddish and German, are magnetically attracted. In a tour de force of novelistic technique, Gilles Rozier never reveals the gender of his narrator—opening the question of how many levels of transgression and risk the teacher is taking by hiding Herman. The Mercy Room is an exquisite novel about the power of desire and the competing forces of good or ill in the heart of each of us.

 

Russell, Mary Doria.  A Thread of Grace (Random House, 2005).

Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II, this new novel is the first in seven years by the bestselling author of The Sparrow and Children of God. It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive.

Mary Doria Russell sets her first historical novel against this dramatic background, tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters. Through them, she tells the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war’s final phase. The result of five years of meticulous research, A Thread of Grace is an ambitious, engrossing novel of ideas, history, and marvelous characters that will please Russell’s many fans and earn her even more.

 

Ryan, Robert.  After Midnight (Headline Book Publishing, 2005).

In 1964, a young Australian girl, Linda Carr, is trying to track down the wreckage of the Liberator bomber in which her father died when it crashed in North Italy in 1944 during World War Two. She employs the help of Jack Kirby, a British Mosquito fighter pilot who was on operations in the area when her father died. He is now a motorcycle racer competing in the Isle of Man TT, but he is finding it hard to adjust to life during peacetime. He too was shot down during the war and spent some time helping the Italian partisans on the ground so he knows a great deal about Nazi brutality, betrayal, corruption and the settling of scores that was the partisan's life in Italy at the time. He also fell in love with Francesca, one of the partisan leaders, and he is keen to find out what happened to her and renew their affair. However, what they uncover is more dangerous and complex than either Linda or Jack could ever have imagined.

 

Ryan, Robert.  Night Crossing (Headline Book Publishing, 2004).

As in his previous novels set in the Second World War, Robert Ryan seamlessly blends fiction with real events to create a captivating story that is both page-turning thriller and moving love-story. The historical context is particularly well-drawn, whether it be the casual violence of pre-war Berlin, the "alien" internment camps in wartime Britain (where, in a cruel irony, Nazi sympathisers were for a time locked up with those who had fled the regime), the claustrophobic tension of the German U-Boats or simply the everyday routine of life on the Home Front. It is this solid historical grounding which lends verisimilitude to a story which in other hands might have tended towards the melodramatic or the downright improbable. Two men, one a British police inspector turned intelligence operative, the other a U-boat officer, compete for the love of a young German violinist, who has fled Berlin with her father to escape the Nazi regime. Ryan skilfully switches from place to place and from character to character as the destinies of our three protagonists cross and then separate again before finally coming together for a tense and ultimately moving dénouement.  (Neil Davie for Amazon.com—Britain)

 


Ryan, Robert.  Early One Morning (Headline Book Publishing, 2004).

In the flamboyant 20s, Englishman William Grover-Williams and Frenchman Robert Benoist were fierce rivals racing their elegant Bugattis on the glittering European race circuits. Not only is the World Championship in their sights, but they have both fallen for the sensuous charms of the extravagently beautiful Eve Aubicq. But when war breaks out, both are signed up by Special Operations Executive for missions behind enemy lines in France, one of which includes investigating rumours of the manufacture of the lethal gas Zyklon B and how it is being used by the Germans. In a series of daring sabotages and assassinations, they cause havoc to the Germans, but finally their cover is blown and they are captured and tortured. Based on a true story of British covert activity and the French resistance during the Second World War, this is a gripping novel of heroism, self-sacrifice, love and betrayal.

 

Ryan, Robert.  The Blue Noon (Headline Book Publishing, 2003).

Desperate to transcend his social class, Eastender Harry Cole reinvents himself as the suave Captain Mason in France at the outbreak of World War II. When his identity is discovered by MI6, he realizes he is involved with forces more ruthless than he could ever have imagined.

 

Adult Fiction--Quint to Riviere

Quint, Michael.  In Our Strange Gardens (Penguin Group, 2001).

"Michel has a story to tell.  Something that he remembers.  Something someone else once remembered for him. It's about his father, an ordinary man, and his cousin, a man with an extraordinary secret." "Years ago, in the bitter years toward the end of World War II, two cousins found themselves at the mercy of a German guard following an explosive act of resistance. Thrown into a deep pit with a small group of terrified hostages, the men are told that one of them will die by dawn to serve as an example for the others. It's up to the prisoners to propose who will be sacrificed. But then the guard returns with an extraordinary proposition of his own." In years to come it will become an old man's anecdote, a memory of a moment that once changed the lives of the men who lived it, and once recalled, will define the life of the boy to whom it was told. 

 

Ratcliffe, Denis F.  A Stranger at Home (Seren Books, 2003).

This novel centers on the conflicting ideologies in Central Europe during the 1930s and the resulting conflicts during the Second World War. Favel Steiger is caught up in the passion and betrayal of Czech politics. A gifted young man, he is sent to the Soviet Union for training, where he becomes a member of the Communist Party. Arriving back in Czechoslovakia in 1938, he is caught in the German occupation of the Sudetenland and becomes a member of the SS. Trapped in Germany, it is perhaps inevitable that his corps becomes part of the Sixth Army, which is trapped at Stalingrad. This remarkable and epic story records the degradations visited upon the populations of middle Europe as the war grinds bitterly and brutally to its conclusion.

 

Reasoner, James.  Zero Hour (Forge Books, 2003).

The U.S. has started to turn the tide against the Japanese. Through the eyes of young soldiers and nurses, we experience the gritty action and poignant stories of Americans trying to win the Pacific island by island. And in North Africa, British Intelligence may have the key to winning the tank war. Up close and personal, the bullets fly at the climactic Battle of Algiers.

 

Reasoner, James.  Battle Lines (Forge Books, 2002).

It is 1941, and friends Adam, Joe, Dale, and Catherine are similar to most young adults. College, dating, and fast cars are what they know and live for. And in Chicago, Illinois, the near center of America, world conflict seems merely a distant rumor.But as turmoil in Europe develops into full-scale war, Chicago suddenly abounds with talk of America's entering the fight. Drawn by the promise of freedom and the allure of battle, Joe and Dale join the Army, Adam the Marines, and Catherine the Naval Nurse Service. Far away from home and facing the reality of war in all its horror, they find the world a frighteningly big and unforgiving place, and what began as a quest for freedom becomes a battle to stay alive in one of the bloodiest wars of the twentieth century.

 

Reasoner, James.  Trial by Fire (Forge Books, 2002).

"A day that will live in infamy," is how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With a devastating stroke, World War II was no longer a strictly European war; it was now our war, too. In this powerful, exciting sequel to Battle Lines, James Reasoner shows us the fight through four friends cast into the chaos of the war that reshaped the twentieth century. As the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, they simultaneously launch an assault on Wake Island, where Adam Bergman is one of the marines working feverishly to complete the installation of an airstrip. He is unaware of the Pearl Harbor disaster that sends hundreds of casualties streaming into the hospital on the United States Naval Base, where his wife, Nurse Catherine Tancred of the Naval Medical Corps, is one of dozens ministering to the wounded and dying.

While Adam and Catherine are immersed in the Pacific war effort, their friends Joe and Dale Parker are stationed with British tank divisions that are fighting the Germans for control of North Africa.Joe and Dale are only supposed to advise their British allies, but before long, Dale is manning a tank to help stem the tide of battle, and Joe is working directly with British intelligence in Cairo.

 

Reeman, Douglas.  In Danger’s Hour (Arrow Books, 2003).

A battle-scarred minesweeper is sent to the Mediterranean to help clear the way for an Allied invasion of Italy.

 

Remarque, Erich Maria.  The Night in Lisbon (Ballantine Books, Revised edition, 1998).

With the world slowly sliding into war, it is crucial that enemies of the Reich flee Europe at once. But so many routes are closed, and so much money is needed. Then one night in Lisbon, as a poor refugee gazes hungrily at the boat enroute to America, a man approaches him with two tickets and a story to tell.  It is a harrowing tale of bravery and butchery, daring and death, where the price of love is beyond measure, and the legacy of evil is infinite. And as the young man listens spellbound to the desperate teller, in a matter of hours, the two form a unique and unshakable bond—one that will last all their lives.

 

Remarque, Erich Maria.  The Arch of Triumph (Simon Publications, Reprint, 2001).

It is 1939. Despite a law banning him from performing surgery, Ravic--a German doctor and refugee living in Paris--has been treating some of the city's most elite citizens for two years on the behalf of two less-than-skillful French physicians.  Forbidden to return to his own country, and dodging the everyday dangers of jail and deportation, Ravic manages to hang on--all the while searching for the Nazi who tortured him back in Germany. And though he's given up on the possibility of love, life has a curious way of taking a turn for the romantic, even during the worst of times.

 

Renault, Mary.  The Charioteer (Vintage, 2003).

After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veterans’ hospital in England to convalesce. There he befriends the young, bright Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. As they find solace and companionship together in the idyllic surroundings of the hospital, their friendship blooms into a discreet, chaste romance. Then one day, Ralph Lanyon, a mentor from Laurie’s schoolboy days, suddenly reappears in Laurie’s life, and draws him into a tight-knit social circle of world-weary gay men. Laurie is forced to choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct pleasures of experience. Originally published in the United States in 1959, The Charioteer is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during World War II that stands with Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar and Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories as a monumental work in gay literature.

 

Riviere, William.  Kate Caterina (Grove/Atlantic, 2003).

"Kate Fenn, a great English beauty, marries a young left-wing Italian doctor and moves to Tuscany where she relishes the beauty of the countryside and the strong family ties of the D'Alessandrias. In the passionate private life she shares with her husband, she calls herself Kate Caterina, trying to wed the two conflicting parts of herself, although to everyone else she is simply Caterina. It is the time of Mussolini, jack-booted Black Shirts, and nationalist fervor." Caterina's best friend and beautiful sister-in-law, Esmeralda, marries a high-ranking Fascist official just as Italy declares war against Britain, and in the years that follow, love and friendships are dramatically tested. Caterina finds herself locked inside Nazi-Fascist Europe with a brother and brother-in-law in opposing armies, a husband who is imprisoned for his socialist ideas, and a small daughter she has to raise alone.

 

Riviere, William.  Echoes of War (Sceptre, 1998).

English-born, Italian resident spins a thick family-saga that spans the decades between the two world wars, and follows the losses, loves, hopes, and histories of various branches of the Lammas family. An unhurried narrative style gives Rivire the chance to lavish great quantities of prose on the features of the English land- and sea-scape, and upon finely minor incidents. The memory of a young man lost to war, and the dread of war among those still living, decisively stamps the Lammas family, and ultimately leaves none of their lives untouched. With its leisurely exploration of the generational permutations of loss and fear, this story makes its point with variations that may seem too many and too subtle for patience. Yet the writing rarely sags, and will surely be enjoyed by fans of R.F. Delderfield and Colleen McCullough.  (Kirkus Review)

 

Adult Fiction-Parsons to Pynchon

Parsons, Alexander.  In the Shadows of the Sun (Doubleday Publishing, 2005).

From award-winning novelist Alexander Parsons comes a vivid chronicle of the traumatic impact of WWII on an American family at the dawn of the nuclear age.Set in the high desert badlands of New Mexico and the ravaged, war-torn landscape of the Philippine jungle, In the Shadows of the Sun tells the story of a New Mexican ranching family — the Stricklands — struggling to hold on to their way of life in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Imprisoned by the Japanese, Jack Strickland endures the horrors of the Bataan Death March, his will to stay alive fueled by his desire to return home. A world away, forces threaten to tear his family apart. An illicit love blooms between Baylis Strickland and his brother's wife, Sara, even as the family confronts the threat of devastating loss and displacement: they have been served with an eviction notice from the War Department, which plans to build a bombing range on the land they've worked for generations.

 

Paul, Caroline.  East Wind, Rain (HarperCollins, 2007).

Off the lush coast of Kauai sits the almost unknown island of Niihau. Its inhabitants—mostly Hawaiian natives—lead a quiet, simple life. They work the ranch of the island's owner, Aylmer Robinson, an eccentric haole who insists that Niihau remain isolated from the outside world; no phones, cars, electricity, or other conveniences are allowed. According to Robinson's Christian view, his people must be protected from modern evils, and his island haven kept as pure as Eden before the Fall.  Then a plane crash-lands on Niihau. The Hawaiians have no idea that it's a Japanese Zero, and that the pilot—who survives the landing—has just taken part in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Concerned primarily with the fact that visitors aren't allowed, Niihau's residents await Mr. Robinson's monthly visit from Kauai. But unknown to them, the outside world is now at war. Don 

Only the island's one Japanese-American couple, Irene and Yoshio Harada, realize the significance of the downed soldier. Convinced that Japan has successfully invaded the United States, and pressured by the desperate pilot, the Haradas face a growing dilemma. Are they loyal to America, their country, but one that has bruised them with prejudice? Or should they help the pilot, betraying their Hawaiian neighbors but saving themselves? As the Zero smolders in the Niihauan soil, and the Niihauans slowly figure out that the modern world has encroached on their remote island whether they like it or not, the Haradas see cracks in their own shaky marriage beginning to widen. Paradise, once within reach, slowly falls victim to its own isolated innocence. 

 

Pearce, Donn.  Nobody Comes Back (Forge Books, 2004).

Donn Pearce, the author of Cool Hand Luke, again revisits the subject of men under tremendous pressure, living and dying according to oppressive circumstances. Now, he brings you another tragic hero, thrust out of the only world he knew and forced to create one on his own terms . . . or die trying. Toby Parker was America's unwanted son. Only sixteen years old, he was too young to be enlisted in the army, but old enough to know that he didn't want to return to the life he knew: moving from new home to new home, neglected by his mother, ignored by his father, overlooked by everyone else. The war overseas promised exotic locations and adventure, but what it delivered was something else entirely. The Nazis were beginning to fall back, and the war was all but over. But the fighting still raged on in pockets of Europe. Out of the critical focus on France, only one last position needed to hold: the city of Bastogne. Thrown into battle almost immediately upon arrival, he soon found himself wounded and alone, struggling to survive and looked upon to lead. It was here that Toby was to learn what war really was, and what kind of man he was destined to become. Many American boys went into World War II, and each one lived their own nightmare, critically shaped by what they experienced. Out of the dead, even the survivors, Nobody Comes Back. Told with gritty authenticity, Donn Pearce captures the very essence of what it means to be caught under the worst circumstances imaginable, while having the strength and humanity to rise above them. 

 

Pears, Iain.  The Dream of Scipio (Penguin Group, 2003).

In the final days of the Roman Empire, in the years of the Black Death, in the darkest hours of World War II, three men sought refuge from the madness that surrounded them in the realm of ideas. Set in Provence at three different critical moments of Western civilization, The Dream of Scipio follows the fortunes of these men: Manlius Hippomanes, a Gallic aristocrat obsessed with the preservation of Roman civilization; Olivier de Noyen, a poet in the service of a powerful cardinal who is engaged in a treacherous plot to restore the papacy to Rome; and Julien Barneuve, a disaffected intellectual who joins the Vichy government in the hope of rescuing his own sense of humanity. Each man is in love with an extraordinary woman, and each love affair, because of its era, is ill starred.

 

Peet, Mal.  Tamar (Walker Books, 2005).

This lengthy Carnegie Medal-winning novel is masterfully crafted, written in cinematic prose, and peopled by well-drawn, multidimensional characters. Intense and riveting, it is a mystery, a tale of passion, and a drama about resistance fighters in the Netherlands during World War II. The story unfolds in parallel narratives, most told by an omniscient narrator describing the resistance struggle, and fewer chapters as a narrative told by 15-year-old Tamar, the granddaughter of one of the resistance fighters. The locale and time shift between Holland in 1944 and '45 and England in 1995. The constant dangers faced by the resistance fighters as well as their determination to succeed in liberating their country from German occupation come vividly to life. Dart, Tamar, and Marijke are the main characters in this part of the book. Their loyalty to one another and the movement is palpable though love and jealousy gradually enter the story and painfully change the dynamics. Other characters jeopardize the safety of the group and intensify the life-threatening hazards they face. Peet deftly handles the developing intrigue that totally focuses readers. After her beloved grandfather commits suicide, modern-day Tamar is determined to undercover the mystery contained in a box of seemingly unrelated objects that he has left for her. Peet keeps the story going back and forth in time, and readers must wait till the end of this intricate book to understand fully what happened to these courageous people. This is an extraordinary, gripping novel.  (written by Renee Steinberg for School Library Journal)

Tamar is being used as a reading book for West Sound Academy, Poulsbo, WA, all school reading program.

Review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/oct/15/featuresreviews.guardianreview26


 

Pella, Judith.  Homeward My Heart (Bethany House, 2004).

Cameron works as a foreign correspondent for her father's newspaper while she continues to try to obtain a Soviet visa in order to join her husband, Alex, who is not allowed to leave Russia. Blair is in Washington D.C., where husband, Gary, works for the State Department. Jackie is in California, struggling to cope with widowhood and single motherhood. All three are experiencing private heartaches that severely test their faith when Cameron's visa is suddenly approved. Blair and Jackie decide to join her in a clandestine search for their stepbrother. Danger and intrigue, courage and faith explode in a powerful conclusion.

 

Pella, Judith.  Written on the Wind (Bethany House, 2002).

Cameron Hayes' determination to distance herself from her famous father and establish herself as a journalist finds her back in her beloved Russia, now threatened by Hitler's greed. In Moscow she meets Dr. Alex Rostov, a once-prominent US surgeon who has been forced to return to his Russian homeland. Anger over the politics of war brings Alex and Cameron together, but will tragedy ultimately drive them apart? Cameron's sisters, Blair and Jackie, have each set out on paths certain to dismantle a family already fragmented by turmoil, within and without. Long-held secrets shimmer just beneath the surface of a family united only in name...will the trauma of war be the catalyst for peace?

 

Pella, Judith.  Somewhere a Song (Bethany House, 2002).

Somewhere a Song opens the day after Pearl Harbor as the daughters of newspaper tycoon Keegan Hayes suffer the aftermath on three different continents-journalist Cameron Hayes in Moscow, searching for the half-brother she's never met; Jackie in California, dangerously aligning herself with the Japanese community; and Blair in Manila, desperately seeking the whereabouts of her estranged army officer husband even as she is caught up in the terror of war. The trauma each woman experiences threatens to further drive a wedge in the Hayes family. Is there hope when the world's at war?

 

Petri, Romana.  Umbrian War (Toby Press, 2000).

In the hills and countryside of Umbria there is a house outside a village in which live Alcina and Aliseo, sister and brother. She is older, wiser, apparently stronger; he is younger, his head is in the clouds.  It is the last two years of war. The Germans are on the run, the local fascists engaged in a final desperate spree of cruelty and arrogance. Alcina confidently looks after the fields, runs the house and looks after Aliseo. But inside her heart there is fear, fear of loneliness and the terrible fear of death. She knows too much: her mother died giving birth to Aliseo, and her father also died young. Alcina and Aliseo join the partisans in the mountains: this experience will help her to overcome her fears. She will learn that there is space enough in her heart for all those things she previously denied, amongst them perhaps even love.

 

Piercy, Marge.  Gone to Soldiers (Penguin Books, 1988).

"Piercy's war takes on universality of a sort that Hemingway's war, or Mailer's war, could never have achieved...she has mastered a huge subject, dismantled a centuries-old sex barrier and widened our perceptions of both war and literature. All this in a good beach book makes GONE TO SOLDIERS a victory by any standards."  (NEWSWEEK)

 

Plain, Belva.  Legacy of Silence (Dell Publishing, 1996).

A woman's life changes when the Nazis come to power in Germany. Caroline Hartzinger's boyfriend becomes a Nazi and abandons her because she is half-Jewish. She escapes to America, marries a fellow refugee and gives birth to the Nazi's son.

 

Pope, Dudley.  Decoy (House of Strata, 2003).

It is February 1942 and the war in the Atlantic looks grim for the allied convoys. The 'Great Blackout' has started, leaving the spy centre of Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire at a loss as to what the Nazis are planning. U-boat Command has changed the Hydra cipher. The Enigma cannot be broken. Cipher experts can no longer eavesdrop on Nazi command, which leaves convoys open for attack by packs of marauding Nazi submarines. Winning the battle of the Atlantic will surely give Hitler a final victory. And who can stop him? 

 

Pound, Ezra.  The Pisan Cantos (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2003).

Ezra Pound's The Pisan Cantos was written in 1945, while the poet was being held in an American military detention center near Pisa, Italy, as a result of his pro-Fascist wartime broadcasts to America on Radio Rome. Imprisoned for some weeks in a wire cage open to the elements, Pound suffered a nervous collapse from the physical and emotional strain. Out of the agony of his own inferno came the eleven cantos that became the sixth book of his modernist epic, The Cantos, themselves conceived as a Divine Comedy for our time. The Pisan Cantos were published in 1948 by New Directions and in the following year were awarded the Bollingen Prize for poetry by the Library of Congress. The honor came amid violent controversy, for the dark cloud of treason still hung over Pound, incarcerated in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Yet there is no doubt that The Pisan Cantos displays some of his finest and most affecting writing, marking an elegaic turn to the personal while synthesizing the philosophical and economic political themes of his previous cantos.

 

Pratt, James Michael.  Ticket Home (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2002).

At the dawn of World War II, in rural Oklahoma, identical twins Lucien and Norman Parker are bound by the tragic death of their mother, their railroad jobs, and an abiding well of brotherly devotion. But when both fall for the prettiest girl in town, they learn the hard way that they can't share everything. It is brash Lucien who finally wins her hand, while gentle Norman must learn to live without the woman he cherishes and the brother who betrayed him. At last, reunited, and reconciled, in the war-torn South Pacific, Lucien and Norman fight side by side. But only one will return home for a bittersweet reunion, burdened with the heartbreaking loss of his brother—and the weight of a shocking secret that will haunt him for decades to come.

 

Priest, Christopher.  The Separation (Old Earth Books, 2005).  

In this subtle, unsettling alternative WWII history from British author Priest (The Prestige), Jack Sawyer is an RAF bomber pilot who encourages his government to distrust the peace proposal offered by renegade Nazi Rudolph Hess. At the same time, perhaps, Jack's identical twin brother, Joe, is a pacifist Red Cross staffer aiding peace negotiations with a German delegation headed by Hess. Jack's actions help shape the events we remember; Joe's lead to a truce between Germany and Britain in 1941 that results in a disturbingly familiar postwar world. Convincingly detailed diaries, scraps of published texts, declassified transcripts and more baffle a historian who tries to reconcile different realities. The brothers themselves recognize the uncertainty of motives and actions; Joe in particular struggles to believe that he's making a better future even though he realizes how much it costs him personally. Many alternative history novels are bloodless extrapolations from mountains of data, but this one quietly builds characters you care about—then leaves their dilemmas unresolved as they try to believe that what they have done is "right."  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Purser, Philip.  Lights in the Sky (Severn House, 2005).

Michael Pickup, a skilled but trouble-prone RAF pilot in the squadron which ferries agents and saboteurs in and out of Nazi-occupied Europe, finds himself despatched to neutral Sweden on an extraordinary political-warfare mission. He is to bring back two witnesses to the hideous crime that one day will be called the Holocaust, but in 1943 is little reported, and then seldom believed. Fumbling his way through the wiles of opposing factions and rival secret services, consoled by a spirited daughter of a Swedish nobleman, he steels himself for a desperate flight into the heart of darkness. His gripping and sometimes comic adventures are interwoven with the narrative of one of the witnesses to give a vivid picture of an outpost of the world at war, and cast a light on how a dreadful truth took so long to take hold.

 


Pynchon, Thomas.  Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin, Reprint, 2000).

Tyrone Slothrop, a GI in London in 1944, has a big problem. Whenever he gets an erection, a Blitz bomb hits. Slothrop gets excited, and then (as Thomas Pynchon puts it in his sinister, insinuatingly sibilant opening sentence), "a screaming comes across the sky," heralding an angel of death, a V-2 rocket. The novel's title, Gravity's Rainbow, refers to the rocket's vapor arc, a cruel dark parody of what God sent Noah to symbolize his promise never to destroy humanity again. History has been a big trick: the plan is to switch from floods to obliterating fire from the sky. 

Slothrop's father was an unwitting part of the cosmic doublecross. To provide for the boy's future Harvard education, he took cash from the mad German scientist Laszlo Jamf, who performed Pavlovian experiments on the infant Tyrone. Laszlo invented Imipolex G, a new plastic useful in rocket insulation, and conditioned Tyrone's privates to respond to its presence. Now the grown-up Tyrone helplessly senses the Imipolex G in incoming V-2s, and his military superiors are investigating him. Soon he is on the run from legions of bizarre enemies through the phantasmagoric horrors of Germany. 

 

Adult Fiction--O'Brian to Otsuka

 

 

 

O’Brian, Patrick.  Richard Temple (W.W. Norton, 2006).

The eponymous protagonist of this novel is a prisoner of the German army in France; but as we soon discover, he is nobody's idea of a hero. In order to keep himself sane while denying the charges and absorbing the beatings of his captors, Richard Temple conducts a minute examination—one might almost call it a prosecution—of his own life.  Temple escapes from a blighted childhood and his widowed, alcoholic mother thanks to an artistic gift, which is the one thing of value he has to his name. His life as a painter in London of the 1930s is cruelly deprived. In order to eat, he squanders his one asset by becoming a forger of art, specializing in minor works by Utrillo. He is rescued by the love of a beautiful and wealthy woman, and it is the failure of this relationship, coupled with the outbreak of war, that propels him into the world of espionage.

 

 

Oe, Kenzaburo (Editor).  The Crazy Iris: And Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath (Grove Press, 1994).

Edited by one of Japan’s leading and internationally acclaimed writers, this collection of short stories was compiled to mark the fortieth anniversary of the August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here some of Japan’s best and most representative writers chronicle and re-create the impact of this tragedy on the daily lives of peasants, city professionals, artists, children, and families. From the “crazy” iris that grows out of season to the artist who no longer paints in color, the simple details described in these superbly crafted stories testify to the enormity of change in Japanese life, as well as in the future of our civilization. Included are “The Crazy Iris” by Masuji Ibuse, “Summer Flower” by Tamiki Hara, “The Land of Heart’s Desire” by Tamiki Hara, “Human Ashes” by Katsuzo Oda, “Fireflies” by Yoka Ota, “The Colorless Paintings” by Ineko Sata, “The Empty Can” by Kyoko Hayashi, “The House of Hands” by Mitsuharu Inoue, and “The Rite” by Hiroko Takenishi.

 

O’Nan, Stewart.  A World Away (Picador USA, 2003).

In four highly acclaimed novels, Stewart O'Nan has proven himself among the most versatile of young writers, breathing new life into a wide range of literary traditions. A World Away is O'Nan at his most romantic and elegiac. By following the fortunes of the Langer family, whose oldest son, Rennie, is missing in action in the Pacific during World War II, O'Nan brilliantly captures the mood of this lost world and the changing fate of a country aware that when the war ends nothing will ever be the same.

 

Ondaatje, Michael.  The English Patient (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition, 2004).

Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as World War II ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

 

Ooka, Shohei.  Fires on the Plain (Tuttle Classics, 2001). 

Fires recalls the author's experience as a prisoner captured by American forces during WWII figures. Set in Leyte, where the Japanese army is disintegrating under the hammering blows of American forces, the story focuses on the disintegration of one man, Private Tamura. One by one, each of his ties to society is destroyed, until Tamura, a sensitive and intelligent man, becomes an outcast. Yet it is the novel's uplifting vision during a time of ultimate horror that has made it one of Japan's greatest novels.

 

Ota, Makoto.  The Breaking Jewel (Columbia University Press, 2003).

Set on an island in the South Pacific during the final days of World War II, when the tide has turned against Japan and the war has unmistakably become one of attrition, The Breaking Jewel offers a rare depiction of the Pacific War from the Japanese side and captures the essence of Japan's doomed imperial aims. The novel opens as a small force of Japanese soldiers prepares to defend a tiny and ultimately insignificant island from a full-scale assault by American forces. Its story centers on squad leader Nakamura, who resists the Americans to the end, as he and his comrades grapple with the idea of gyokusai, (translated as "the breaking jewel" or the "pulverization of the gem"), the patriotic act of mass suicide in defense of the homeland. Well known for his antiestablishment and antiwar sentiments, Makuto Oda gradually and subtly develops a powerful critique of the war and the racialist imperial aims that proved Japan's undoing.

 

Otsuka, Julie.  When the Emperor was Divine (Penguin Books, 2004).

Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.

 

 

Oznick, Cynthia.  The Shawl (Vintage, 1990).

The Shawl is a brief story first published in the New Yorker in 1981; "Rosa," its longer companion piece, appeared in that magazine three years later. They tell a story of a woman who survived the Holocaust but who has no life in the present because her existence was stolen away from her in a past that does not end. "A book that etches itself indelibly in the reader's mind."  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

 

Adult Fiction--Nathanson to Niles

Nathanson, E.M.  The Dirty Dozen (Cassell, New edition, 2001).

Twelve bearded, filthy GIs wait behind barbed wire, prisoners of their own army. Murderers, thieves, rapists, they wait to be sentenced to death or hard labour for life. They are the damned of the American Army. But at the last moment they are offered the opportunity of salvation: a mission just before D-Day. The chances of their getting away with it are about one in a million, but the damned don't care, and certainly don't count chances.

 

Nayman, Shira.  Awake in the Dark: Stories (Scribner, 2007).

Bold and deeply affecting, Awake in the Dark is a provocative and haunting work of fiction about who we are and how we are formed by history. These luminous stories portray the contemporary lives of the children of Holocaust victims and perpetrators as they struggle with the legacy of their parents -- their questions of identity, family, and faith. In "The House on Kronen-strasse," a woman returns to Germany to find her childhood home; in "The Porcelain Monkey," the shocking origins of an Orthodox Jewish woman's faith are revealed; in "The Lamp," the harrowing experiences of a young woman leave her with the perfect daughter and a strange light; and in "Dark Urgings of the Blood," a patient is convinced that she shares a disturbing history with her psychiatrist. Rendered in powerful, unaffected prose, Awake in the Dark is an illuminating and startling book about the disguises we don, the secrets we keep, and the consequences of our silences.

 

Nemirovsky, Irene. Suite Francaise (Vintage, Reprint, 2007).

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.

When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.

 

Newton, William.  The Two-Pound Tram (Bloomsbury Publishings, 2006).

The year was 1937, and Hitler had just walked into Austria. It was also a marvelous year for clouded yellow butterflies. Wilfred and Duncan live in a big old house in Sussex, England. They spend their days catching butterflies and dreaming of escape, and only ever see their parents on Wednesdays for lunch. When their mother elopes and their already distant father takes up with other ladies, they decide that enough is enough. And they have a plan: they will leave home, go to London, and buy a tram, decommissioned by the bus and tram company, that they have seen advertised in the paper for two pounds sterling. Soon the brothers find that their adventures have begun in earnest-as they become proprietors of an old-fashioned horse-drawn tram service, then local celebrities whose tram advertises for a seaside merchant, and finally such heroes of the war effort that they receive a visit from royalty.

 

Niles, Douglas and Michael Dobson.  Fox at the Front (Doherty, Tom Associates, 2004).

This World War II what-if novel picks up where Fox on the Rhine (an alternate history of the Battle of the Bulge) ended, with a disillusioned Field Marshal Rommel surrendering his armies to the Allies, but continuing operations against the Nazis under the tutelage of General Patton's forces. Soon President Roosevelt sees the value of founding a German rump state to help transfer power and reconstruct the country, just as the Allies did in Italy. As the new commander of the German Republican Army, Rommel operates alongside Patton's Third Army, creating a sort of WWII "Dream Team" for war gamers. Imagining how the dignified, sympathetic German commander might have reacted to the full revelation of Nazi atrocities, Niles and Dobson depict Rommel as shaken to the very core by his complicity in Hitler's final solution. The authors' attention to military detail and maneuvers would satisfy any drill instructor, and they imbue even minor historical characters with authenticity and personality, demonstrating how an individual's actions and reactions shape history. This is a thoroughly plausible what-if scenario, and as such will please and titillate alternate history fans, WWII buffs, war gamers and others.  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

ADULT FICTION--McCammon to Myrer

McCammon, Robert.  The Wolf’s Hour (Grafton Books, 1989).

The Wolf's Hour is a 1989 World War II adventure novel with a twist by Robert R. McCammon. A British secret agent goes behind German lines to stop a secret weapon from being launched against the Allies. The twist is that this agent is a werewolf. The book also includes some of the agent's history, namely how he became a werewolf.

 

McCann, Colum.  Zoli (Random House, 2007).

Zoli functions as the narrator through most of the novel, relating her life’s story to her chonorroeja, her daughter, Francesca. Early on in the novel, when Zoli (given a boy’s name by her grandfather) is still very young, she learns that most of her family has been shepherded onto ice and killed by fascist Hlinka guards. Her grandfather brings her up and gives Zoli not only the gift of life but a lasting gift—literacy that will later change her life in unforeseen ways. As Zoli matures into a young woman, and one kind of terror is replaced with another as Czechoslovakia turns red, she is sought out by a young Englishman Stephen Swann. He encourages Zoli to not just sing but to use her pen and write poetry. “Her style was to quietly build layer upon layer until, by the end, the songs become sad and declamatory, tales of bitterness and treachery, the verses repeated over and over, like the falling and layering of so many leaves,“ McCann writes of Zoli‘s work. Before long, through the strength of her poetry, Zoli, to her dismay, becomes the poster child for the Communists who use her material as propaganda and worse, threaten the Gypsy way of life by stilling their movement forever. “They force us to be what they expect us to be,” Zoli says. (www.mostlyfiction.com)

 

McCutchan, Philip.  Cameron’s Troop Lift (St Martins Press, 1st U.S. edition, 1987).

Away from the Battle of the Atlantic, Donald Cameron is now captain of HMS Caithness, a destroyer on patrol in the Bay of Bengal. Learning of a Japanese convoy bound for Burma with a liner full of British POWs slated for slave labor, Cameron goes beyond his patrol duty and intercepts the vessels. Then he must get the overloaded Caithness back to safety, pursued by late-arriving warships. The narrative adds up to another good look at wartime life "in the Andrew Royald Navy," among officers and crew, including a possibly cowardly first lieutenant. As usual the carnage and randomness of war is not slighted, and McCutchan's talent for mixing believable characters and stirring sea action is as strong as ever. (Publishers Weekly)

 

McDaniel, J.T.  Bacalao (Riverdale, 2004).

When Lieutenant Lawrence Miller first sees U.S.S. Bacalao the submarine is little more than a pile of curved steel plates stacked up alongside the builder’s ways. Over the next few months Miller watches the boat take shape and the crew gather from throughout the fleet.  By late 1941, Bacalao is in commission and attached to the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Then, on a Sunday morning, everything changes as the Japanese sneak attack plunges the United States into World War II. The new submarine and her untried crew are immediately thrown into action against the Japanese. 

And Miller is there through it all, from the disastrous first patrol, when the boat is nearly lost and a pair of surprising heroes emerge, to the deployment to Australia, where a chance encounter ashore will change his life forever. Then, after a year in command of an ancient S-boat in the frigid hell of the Aleutians, Miller returns to Bacalao as her last wartime commander. 

 

McEwan, Ian.  Atonement (Anchor, 2003).

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

 

McNamer, Deirdre.  Red Rover (Penguin Group, 2007).

A stirring novel about idealism laid waste and the haunting, redemptive bonds of friendship.  Deirdre McNamer has won praise for the intelligence, beauty, precision, and sweep of her fiction. Her first novel in seven years, Red Rover tells the story of three Montana men who get swept up in the machinations of World War II and its fateful aftermath. As boys, Aidan and Neil Tierney ride horseback for miles across unfenced prairie, picturing themselves as gauchos, horsemen of the Argentine pampas. A hundred miles away, Roland Taliaferro wants only to escape the violence and poverty of his family. As war approaches, Aidan and Roland join the FBI. Roland serves Stateside while Aidan—in a gesture as exuberant as a child in a game of Red Rover—requests hazardous duty and is sent as an undercover agent to Nazi-ridden Argentina. Neil becomes a B-29 bomber pilot. 

Aidan returns to Montana ill, shaken, and divided from Roland over the FBI's role in the war. On a cold December day in 1946, he is found fatally shot, an apparent suicide. The FBI stays silent. Only when Neil and Roland are very old men, meeting by chance in a rehabilitation facility, does Aidan's death become illuminated, atoned for, and fully put to rest. This beautifully crafted, far- ranging novel will catch readers up in the grace and hard truths of the lives it unfolds. 

 

Meade, Glen.  Sands of Sakkara (St. Martin’s Press, 2000).

Glenn Meade's electrifying novels capture the intrigue of nations, the brutality of war, and the heroism of brave men and women. The Sands of Sakkara is his most satisfying novel yet-a heart-pounding thriller set against the backdrop of wartime Egypt, where a breathless chase across the arid desert explodes, as two people race against time to stop a dark plot in the heart of World War II.  Once Rachel Stern was a beautiful archaeologist, until the Nazis herded her behind barbed wire. Once Jack Halder lived between two nations. Now he is filled with rage, chosen to spearhead a desperate secret mission-and to bring Rachel Stern into it. Once Harry Weaver was one of America's best and brightest. Now he is the only U.S. agent who can hunt down the man who was his friend, and the woman they both loved in 1939.  In a stunning story that reaches from the teeming streets of Berlin to the feet of the great pyramids, three former friends are about to meet again: around a mission to assassinate FDR.

 

Mesce, Bill, Jr.  Officer of the Court (Bantam, 2002).

Officer of the Court is the stunning tale of a man defying the military establishment and risking his life to solve a murder — a murder that conceals a shattering act of betrayal.
On a remote Scottish island the body of an American officer has washed ashore. Major Harry Voss, a lawyer in the Army’s Judge Advocate’s office, doesn’t hesitate to take the assignment of finding out who killed Lieutenant Armando Grassi, and why.

Harry worked with Lieutenant Grassi on the case of a murdered American fighter pilot shot down by his own comrades. That inquiry left good men dead, a woman destroyed, and justice undone. For Harry, this is a chance to right the wrongs of the past. Meanwhile, World War II is raging: London has survived the Blitz, Nazi submarines have been swept out of the North Atlantic, and the Allies are poised for victory on the Italian front. From the beginning, Voss and his new partner, Captain Woody Kneece, are certain that Grassi had uncovered something about secret night flights between England and a remote base in Greenland. Now they must follow Grassi’s footsteps. And when they do, they are drawn inexorably into a dangerous conspiracy — and the fiery crucible of the war.

There is far more to Grassi’s murder than meets the eye. Harry’s investigation will take him from the rear echelons to the front lines in search of the truth. But, as Harry knows, the truth is often the first casualty of war. In a world where soldiers guard their secrets with their lives and ruthless, powerful men orchestrate world events for their own gain, Harry is facing an almost impossible task. He cannot guess how much this investigation will cost him personally and professionally. But as he and Kneece, each with something to prove to himself, come closer to a shocking revelation, the more they find themselves challenging a military establishment that takes no prisoners. Here loyalties are meant to be betrayed, allies can turn easily into foes, and the line between combat and cold-blooded murder can become tragically blurred.

 

Mesce, Bill, Jr. and Steven G. Szilagyi.  The Advocate: A Novel of World War II, Conspiracy, and Murder (Bantam, 2001).

Virtually certain to be one of the year's big hits (and a strong movie candidate), this beautifully crafted WWII thriller starts with a bang and rarely falters on its path toward gloomy enlightenment about the moral quagmires of war. An American pilot shoots down one of his own men over the Channel Islands in 1943, then seemingly deliberately blasts two civilian witnesses on the ground. Mesce (who makes his writing debut) and Szilagyi (whose novel Photographing Fairies became a British film) delineate the fine line between military strategy and murder as the investigation into the pilot's actions quickly turns into the coverup of a much larger atrocity. At the heart of this investigation is middle-aged American lawyer Maj. Harry Voss, who joined the judge advocate general's office at the urging of his much flashier and more political best friend, Col. Joe Ryan. Now Ryan puts Harry in charge of the apparently slam-dunk case against Maj. Al Markham, who admits to shooting down a frightened and disaffected junior officer in a moment of severe stress. But something about the case doesn't sit right with Voss: he and his two investigators (a hotheaded young lieutenant and a reticent captain, both instantly credible) dig deeper and uncover a tragic military strike that the entire Allied Command is intent on keeping quiet. The authors fill their story with authentic period detail, making the much-traveled landscape of wartime England leap to fresh life, and all their charactersDespecially the American and British brassDare equally interesting. Even the somewhat mysterious narrator, a one-legged Scottish journalist who remains nameless through most of the book, turns out to be the perfect person to put together all the pieces of this exciting, original and finally heartbreaking story.  (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

Metzer, Christopher.  Silent Rebellion (iUniverse, 2001).

Silent Rebellion is an unforgettable story of a young Amish man caught between a commitment to his community and an US Army draft order.  On a gray, blustery March afternoon, 18-year-old Nathan Miller goes to the mailbox on his family's Pennsylvania farm and finds an Army draft induction order. While the rest of the country has been using all of its resources to defeat the Axis powers during the Second World War, Nathan has been aimlessly squandering his days in juvenile mischief. Strictly forbidden from any participation in the war by the Old Order Amish community to which he belongs, Nathan is suddenly caught up in a tug-o-war between his own peaceful people and the mightiest armed forces on the planet.  Soon, Nathan is arrested for draft evasion and his eventual trial makes it clear that his problems are not going to just disappear. When he is found guilty, Nathan is sentenced to two years in a Federal prison; a sentence the judge is willing to suspend on the condition that Nathan reject his churches teachings and report for military service within 48 hours.

 

Michaels, Anne.  Fugitive Pieces (Vintage 1998).

In 1940, Jakob Beer, a seven-year-old boy, bursts from the mud of a war-torn Polish city, where he has buried himself to hide from Nazi soldiers who have killed his family. Though he should have died with his family, he has not only survived but been rescued by a Greek geologist. With this electrifying backdrop, Anne Michaels propels us into her rapturously acclaimed novel of loss, memory, history, and redemption. Michaels lets us witness Jakob's transformation from a half-wild casualty of the Holocaust to an artis who extracts meaning from the abyss. Filled with mysterious symmetries and rendered in heart-stopping prose, Fugitive Pieces is a triumphant work.

 

Michener, James.  Tales from the South Pacific (Fawcett, Reissue edition, 1984).

Tales from the South Pacific received the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  Tales presents the exotic world of the South Pacific, meeting the men and women caught up in the drama of a big war. The young Marine who falls madly in love with a beautiful Tonkinese girl. Nurse Nellie and her French planter, Emile De Becque. The soldiers, sailors, and nurses playing at war and waiting for love in a tropic paradise.

 

Monsarrat, Nicholas.  The Cruel Sea (Burford Books, 2000).

A powerful novel of the North Atlantic in World War II, this is the story of the British ships, Compass and Saltash and of their desperate cat-and-mouse game with Nazi U-boats.  First published in 1951.

 

Moran, Thomas.  Anja the Liar (Penguin Group, 2004).

The award-winning author of Water, Carry Me and The Man in the Box returns to the historical and moral terrain that has made him one of the most acclaimed authors of his generation with this absorbing portrait of two people whose lives have been forever altered by the horrors of World War II.

 

Morris, Morris.  Winds of Change (Baker Publishing Group, 2007).

Bestselling author Gilbert Morris continues the saga of the Stuart family as they are thrust into World War II. This sweeping tale of the strength of family ties amidst outrageous odds will delight Morris's fans. 

 

Mowat, Farley.  And No Birds Sang (Stackpole Books, Republished, 2004).

In July 1942, Farley Mowat was an eager young infantryman bound for Europe and impatient for combat. This powerful, true account of the action he saw, fighting desperately to push the Nazis out of Italy, evokes the terrible reality of war with an honesty, and clarity fiction can only imitate. In scene after unforgettable scene, he describes the agony and antic humor of the soldier's existence: the tedium of camp life, the savagery of the front, and the camaraderie shared by those who have been bloodied in battle.

 


Murphy, Louise.  The True Story of Hansel and Gretel (Penguin Group, 2003).

In the last months of the Nazi occupation of Poland, two children are left by their father and stepmother to find safety in a dense forest. Because their real names will reveal their Jewishness, they are renamed "Hansel" and "Gretel." They wander in the woods until they are taken in by Magda, an eccentric and stubborn old woman called "witch" by the nearby villagers. Magda is determined to save them, even as a German officer arrives in the village with his own plans for the children. Combining classic themes of fairy tales and war literature, this haunting novel of journey and survival, of redemption and memory, powerfully depicts how war is experienced by families and especially by children, and tells a resonant, riveting story.

 

Murray, Sabrina.  The Caprices (Grove/Atlantic, 2007).

From an acclaimed young author of Filipino background comes this history told through individual lives. The Caprices revolves around the Pacific Campaign of World War II. In the wreckage of bombed cities and overcrowded prison camps, there were no winners and no conquerors, and no nation truly triumphed.

Set in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the United States, these stories bring to life ordinary people who must rely on extraordinary measures of faith and imagination. In "Order of Precedence," an Indian officer starving to death in a prison camp remembers playing polo during his days in India. In "Folly," the last days of Amelia Earhart are imagined as the Japanese prepare for war. In "Colossus," an American veteran in his eighties recalls the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the infamous death march of 1941.  With lyrical prose and searing insight, Sabina Murray brings to light a complex cast of characters. Eloquent, artful, and brimming with raw emotion, these tales capture the gross injustices of war as well as the consequences of survival and the memories that follow. In stories that tell as much about the fluid nature of time as they do about the ghosts that haunt survivors, Sabina Murray establishes herself as a passionate and wise voice. 

 

Myrer, Anton.  Once an Eagle (Harper Paperbacks, 2002).

Once An Eagle is the story of one special man, a soldier named Sam Damon, and his adversary over a lifetime, fellow officer Courtney Massengale. Damon is a professional who puts duty, honor, and the men he commands above self interest. Massengale, however, brilliantly advances by making the right connections behind the lines and in Washington's corridors of power. Beginning in the French countryside during the Great War, the conflict between these adversaries solidifies in the isolated garrison life marking peacetime, intensifies in the deadly Pacific jungles of World War 11, and reaches its treacherous conclusion in the last major battleground of the Cold War—Vietnam.

 

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