by Nickii Wantakan Arcado
With the recent conclusion of the 2019 Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California, it was a given that we would want to suggest novels that are about or have been inspired by events during World War II. We hope the list below piques your interests just as it did ours.
All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A personal favorite of mine, All the Light You Cannot See is the story about a blind, female heroine named Marie-Laure and orphan, Werner Pfennig, and how their lives cross paths during the final days of the war. Uniquely written in two perspectives, the title of the novel is also a double entendre; the light that our female heroine cannot physically see as well as the motif of radio waves prominent throughout the novel.
Catch-22 by Joseph Keller
Known as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, Catch-22 is a satirical (somewhat black comedy) novel on Captain John Yossarian, an American bombardier whose growing paranoia causes him both the war as a personal attack against him. The novel is told from a non-chronological third-person omniscient narration, jumping back and forth between various timelines yet closely following John’s attempts at escaping from his military missions. The title has been memorialized as a logical paradox in which an individual, regardless of their choices, are unable to escape due to contradictory rules and/or limitations in their situation.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Set during post World War II London, Juliet Ashton goes on an adventure to the island of Guernsey, where she finds the next subject of her new book-- a native man from the island along with the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. As the story progresses, Juliet not only begins learning about the impact the German occupation had on the island and its inhabitants but learns more about herself as a writer during the process.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
One of the weirdest books on the list if I do say so myself, Slaughterhouse-Five is packed with everything from bombings to aliens. The novel is centered around Billy Pilgrim, whose abduction by aliens plunges him through an odyssey of time to relive his past memories as a serviceman during the war. Chosen as one of the 100 best novels of all time by the Modern Library, the novel is undoubtedly anti-war, utilizing the infamous Dresden firebombing as its backdrop as well as serving as a metaphor for Vonnegut’s own experience as a prisoner of war.
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
September 8, 1943. 14-year-old Claudette Blum, her father, and thousands of other Jewish refugees march towards the Alps towards Italy hoping to find safety with the news that the Italians have broken with the Germans. But Claudette soon realized that while by day, the country offers the hope for solace, by night, Italy becomes battleground fought between Nazis, Allies, resistance fighters, and everyone in between fighting for survival.
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