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Wednesday 5: 5 in World War II

July 6, 2011

I realize my reading has gaps, particularly in the direction of the classics. While World War II is one of my favorite periods for historical fiction, I’ve read embarrassingly little written in the time period itself. That said, here are 5 modern authors who make the era of ration books, “the boys in Europe” and victory gardens real and readable.

1. A Fierce Radiance– Lauren Belfer. What I loved best about this one was the way it made the scientific climate real and present. In the years before antibiotics, death was everywhere, from seemingly innocent things. A cat scratch, a childhood fever, a scrape from falling off your roller skates. So many people had lost someone, and were living with that loss, when the hope of a cure started to emerge… from mold grown in a laboratory.

2. Nothing But a Smile- Steve Amick– a fun romp of a historical romance. Wink Dutton is discharged from the army, wounded in pride as much as in body. He finds himself boarding with the wife of an army buddy, who’s had a daring idea to raise money for her struggling photography shop. Delightful story.

3. Blackout/All Clear– Connie Willis. Technically two books, and written about time travel. Future people conducting research by living in England during the Blitz. Fascinating, intense reads, though. Best to have both when you start reading the first.

4. The Information Officer– Mark Mills. I knew when I was about halfway through this, that it was going to make the list. It’s set on the island of Malta in 1942, which got battered by Italian and German bombs. Against the backdrop of a war that isn’t going well, grisly murders of prostitutes unfold. Max Chadwick is an information officer, playing fast and loose with the facts to boost morale. But spinning this might be beyond him.

5. The Book Thief- Markus Zusak. The narrative worked more like poetry, with strange and gorgeous images. And the story made me cry.

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