This powerful debut novel is about two American military nurses during WWII. Jo, who was raised in New York City, is in France trapped behind military lines in a makeshift medical tent refusing to leave her six critical patients as bombs fall around them and the enemy moves closer. Kay, a small town girl who was raised in Pennsylvania, was at Pearl Harbor and then at Corregidor in the Philippines, where she was taken prisoner and tries to nurse her fellow inmates with no supplies, no food, and sometimes no hope.
I thought their brave, heroic story was told in a compelling straightforward manner. Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night highlights a little told role of women in WWII. For more novels set during WWII, check out our book list.
In 1863, sixteen-year-old Placidia agrees to marry Gryffth Hockaday after knowing him for a very short time. He is a soldier on leave, so while he goes back to fight for the Confederacy, she travels to his South Carolina farm to look after it and be a mother to his young son, Charles. Being alone and isolated, living with only the slaves and no other family leaves Placidia vulnerable. When Gryffth comes home after the war is over, he finds that she has been accused of having a child while he was gone and then murdering the baby. Placidia finds herself arrested, in jail, without her husband’s support. What really happened while Gryffth was gone? The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers is a perfect read for those who enjoy historical fiction (especially Sandra Dallas) that highlights the everyday lives of women.
Another great book by Diane Chamberlain! She has a remarkable talent for developing complex, relatable characters facing difficult situations and telling thought-provoking stories that make me feel a whole host of emotions. Pretending to Dance centers around Molly who, with her husband, is hoping to adopt a baby. This process brings up painful memories from Molly’s past which she has kept hidden from her husband. The story deftly switches between present day and Molly as a rebellious 14 year old. Her very close relationship to her father, Graham, who is a paraplegic from MS, is handled with sensitivity and humor. Graham was my favorite character, with inspirational wisdom and loving insight into life. There are unexpected twists and turns throughout the storyline, and many issues raised in a compassionate manner.
In 1938, Marianne von Lingenfels makes a promise to watch over the families of German resistors. As the war comes to an end, she finds herself taking in Benita and her son, Martin, and Ania and her two sons, Anselm and Wolfgang, at the family’s run-down castle. The three women struggle to survive on their own as they come to terms with the enormous toll the war has taken on them. Taking place over almost sixty years, the novel explores the lives of everyday Germans during the war, a view that hasn’t really been explored at length in popular fiction.
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is an absorbing read that would be great for discussion. For people who enjoyed Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and other female-centered World War II fiction.
In Ann Hood’s novel, a clever storyline follows two women’s lives some fifty years apart against a backdrop of significant events in American history: the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and its aftermath, and the 1960 presidential election and inauguration of JFK. At one point in The Obituary Writer, their two storylines merge into one. Vivien and Claire are not contemporaries, yet they share certain struggles and dreams. Can one woman’s regrets bring closure and happiness to another woman? With the women’s movement and all the changes of the 20th century, did individual women’s lives change that much? Even in the 21st century, do women continue to feel trapped in traditional roles?
This is my first Emilie Richards book, but it won’t be my last! It’s a captivating and emotional story about two women, Cecilia and Robin, who met as children in foster care and became “forever sisters.” Cecilia is a superstar singer-songwriter who agrees to do a documentary film on the foster care system. She asks Robin to join this project as a photographer, and to share their experiences together. Throughout this endeavor, we learn about the foster care system through the eyes and experiences of these two women. More importantly, we learn about the strength of the human spirit to overcome past traumas and develop into loving, successful adults.
Anyone who enjoys complex characterizations and explorations of social issues will enjoy When We Were Sisters.
This is one of my recent favorite books. I could not stop reading this compelling story of two sisters during the Nazi occupation of France, and how the war impacts each in very different ways. These strong women are inspiring and unforgettable, as they endure the unimaginable. All of the characters in The Nightingale really brought the story of the French Resistance to life. I felt as if I were reading a true story. There are twists and turns that kept me engaged until the bitter end.
I highly recommend Kristin Hannah’s latest novel for anyone who enjoys reading about WWII history, or about strong women in extraordinary circumstances. It would also be a great book for book clubs.
This psychological spellbinder introduces Catherine West, a wealthy woman who wants for nothing and trusts no one. She has fine art on her walls, runs her own business, buys anything she desires, has a masseuse on call, and many, many wealthy friends but trusts no one.
Catherine is in her 40s desiring a husband and child, and when a very rugged handsome man approaches her at an art gallery, she keeps telling herself it is all too good to be true. Maybe it is? Check out We Could Be Beautiful and read this twisty, intoxicating, unsettling story by Swan Huntley today!
When 44-year-old New Yorker Maribeth Klein has a heart attack, she realizes she needs to slow down—but with working full-time and being the mother to preschool-aged twins, she is finding it hard to do. Her husband, Jason, and mother, Evelyn, seem unable to take over most of the tasks of running a household so Maribeth can rest and get better. Fed up, Maribeth, leaves her family and moves to Pittsburgh to recover. Pittsburgh is also the city she was born in, and Maribeth, an adoptee, would like to find her birth mother. Will living there anonymously help her find her way home?
Leave Me is very enjoyable novel full of heart and memorable characters. Gayle Forman’s book is a perfect read-alike for readers of Katherine Center and Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah. O Magazine compared the book to Anne Tyler…a good match.
When librarian Nina is made redundant, she decides to follow her dream of owning a bookstore. With a gift for connecting people to the right book, she buys a van, which she christens “Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After.” However, making her business work is not an easy task. With limited resources, she moves from where she lives in Birmingham to northern Scotland, because it seems that the people there have a real need for a bookstore and her mobile one is even a better idea, because she can travel to lots of small towns. Soon, she finds herself becoming part of a community–and maybe even finding love.
Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is a charming novel filled with quirky characters, friendship, and romance.