Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Young Women in World War II

Today's World War II Wednesday features books about young women navigating the difficult war years. I'm constantly amazed by how many stories there are to tell about World War II. I love learning from historical fiction, but I love how these books made me feel even more.

Sibling Spies:
Last year I read Katherine Locke's The Girl With the Red Balloon, and it made me really curious about the magical balloonists of the past. Well, I got my wish. In The Spy with the Red Balloon, Ms. Locke takes us back about 45 years to World War II. The story stars siblings Ilse and Wolf. They are recruited to help the war effort with their magic. Wolf is sent overseas as a spy, and Ilse become part of the Manhattan project, working on a way to deliver the atomic bomb with magic. This book combines science and magic and features daring rescues, lots of danger, questionable morals, LGBT romances, and familial love. The Spy with the Red Balloon is out October 2, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Friends in an Internment Camp:
I absolutely adored Monica Hesse's first World War II novel, Girl in the Blue Coat, and, when I saw she was writing a book about the United States' WWII internment camps, it was a given that I would read it. Haruko is of Japanese descent and Margot is of German descent. The two would never have met if their families hadn't been detained in the same camp in Crystal City, Texas. The War Outside is the story of their secret friendship (and maybe more) across the invisible divide between the Japanese and German detainees. It's a book about the injustices of these events, made more poignant because it is about how those injustices impact individuals. I'm so glad that Monica Hesse's lent her deft and subtle hand and superb research skills to this moment in American history. Out September 25, 2018.   

Norwegian Neighbors:
Almost Autumn follows a group of people living in the same apartment complex in Nazi-occupied Oslo, Norway. Ilse Stern is a Jewish girl in love with the boy across the hall, Hermann Rod. Hermann is working with the Norwegian Underground. Ilse's sister, Sonja, dreams of working as a seamstress at the theater. Ole, their upstairs neighbor, is a taxi driver. Norwegian author, Marianne Kaurin weaves their stories together in a beautiful, harrowing, and sad tapestry. She very poignantly reveals how each life is touched by the others and how coincidences can mean the difference between life and death. The characters in this book are very clearly ordinary people who lived in a tumultuous time. 

Concentration Camp Seamstresses:
The Red Ribbon is about Ella's determination to survive the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Ella fights for a spot in the Upper Tailoring Studio where her sewing skills win her a position making dresses for the officers' wives and female guards. I really enjoyed Lucy Adlington's addition to the World War II genre. The sewing room led to some fascinating and horrifying circumstances for Ella, and it's not something I've seen in other WWII narratives. I also really loved Ella's character. She struggles with what it means to be a friend and a good human in these horrific circumstances and finds that her humanity makes her stronger. The Red Ribbon is out September 11, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Jewish Undercover Agents:
Sarah is Jewish in Nazi Germany. Through some remarkable and tragic circumstances she joins forces with a undercover agent, and she ends up working for him. Sarah goes undercover at an elite Nazi boarding school to try and gain access to a Nazi scientist's home by befriending his daughter. Orphan Monster Spy is really dark. The girls in the school are horrible with a strict pecking order, and they don't shy away from physical violence. There are layers upon layers of betrayals in this story. Really, you have no idea who you can trust. Matt Killeen's debut novel really kept me on the edge of my seat. I also liked that Sarah was hoping to steal some atomic secrets. 

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