Inspired by the release of the new film “Dunkirk,” which explores the rescue of the trapped British Expeditionary Force (by every vessel the British could muster, from Royal Navy warships to fishing boats to ferries,) this month we’ll look at fiction set in World War II.
One of my favorite dramatizations of Dunkirk was an episode of the BBC series “Foyle’s War,” which shows this dramatic event from the home-front perspective. Our first two selections also show the war from the view of the British home front.
In Jennifer Robson’s GOODNIGHT FROM LONDON, American Ruby Sutton feels her journalistic career is on the fast track when, in the summer of 1940, she wins the job as staff writer for a newsmagazine in London. She’s just started to adjust to living in a new country—and dealing with some of her colleagues’ resentment of her for being both a woman and an American—when the nightmare known as the Blitz begins.
As the nightly bombings stretch from weeks into months, Ruby learns the depths of her own strength, the true meaning of friendship and community, and the heartache of love in wartime. Inspired by events in the life of the author’s grandmother, GOODNIGHT FROM LONDON brings into sharp focus wartime London in all its horror and splendor.
From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.
In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it’s an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.
Although most of Ruby’s new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.
As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.
Goodnight from London, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace.
Turning from London under the Blitz to a much less well-known setting, we have THE LAST TELEGRAM by Liz Trenow. In a story also drawn from the author’s personal history—Trenow’s family has run a silk-weaving mill for generations—we experience the coming of age of Lily Vernow though the kaleidoscope of war. Lily yearns to leave her small town and find adventure, but with the advent of the war—and the need for silk to make parachutes—her father requires her to remain at home and help run the family mill. Unfolding as a series of flashbacks narrated by Lily as an old woman, the story illustrates the hardships and excitement of living through war, intensified by Lily’s falling in love with one of the three German Jewish boys her brother rescues from Germany.
Expertly weaving together details of silk manufacture, life on the British home front, a moving story of first love, and the wrenching difficulties of a terrible choice, Trenow’s book provides a new and unique perspective on World War II.
We all make mistakes. Some we can fix.
But what happens when we can’t?
Decades ago, as Nazi planes dominated the sky, Lily Verner made a terrible choice. She’s tried to forget, but now an unexpected event pulls her back to the 1940s British countryside. She finds herself remembering the brilliant colors of the silk she helped to weave at her family’s mill, the relentless pressure of the worsening war, and the kind of heartbreaking loss that stops time.
In this evocative novel of love and consequences, Lily finally confronts the disastrous decision that has haunted her all these years. The Last Telegram uncovers the surprising truth about how the stories we weave about our lives are threaded with truth, guilt, and forgiveness.
Our next selection looks at the power of friendship, hope, and selflessness to sustain individuals through the most desperate circumstances. Teresa Messineo’s THE FIRE BY NIGHT follows the careers of two American military nurses. Friends from nursing school who sign on with the Army in search of adventure, they hope to be stationed together. Instead, Jo is sent to Europe, while Kay is posted to the Phillipines. Told from the point of view of Kay and Jo in alternating chapters, we find Jo in France, struggling to tend seriously wounded patients in makeshift medical tents within firing distance of the front lines. Meanwhile, the paradise that was the Phillipines turns into a nightmare when the Japanese invade, and Kay is confined with thousands of others in a primitive POW camp in Manila. Each nurse continues to do all she can to aid the people under her care, holding fast to the memory of their friendship and the love of the men they found before the tidal wave of war swept them away. Like the men of Band of Brothers, who bonded together to press onward while helping each other survive in a surreal world of horror, these military nurses with their grit, tenacity, and devotion to duty demonstrate that wartime valor wasn’t limited to the men wielding the weapons.
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.
Historical [William Morrow, On Sale: January 17, 2017, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062459107 / eISBN: 9780062459121]
Our last story also alternates between past and present, this time in flashbacks to WWI. In UNRAVELED by M.K. Tod, an invitation to a memorial ceremony lures former soldier Edward and his wife Ann back to France. Though reluctant to revisit the sites of horror he has worked hard to forget, Edward feels compelled to return on the unlikely chance of discovering what happened to the woman whose passionate love saved his sanity. He does in fact encounter her, complicating his present life.
But more disturbing events are on the horizon, as another war breaks out. Edward is brought in to train espionage agents, while his wife counsels those grieving or distraught over the threat to the men they love. Once again, war, secrets, and links that cannot be revealed test their marriage and the bonds of love and sacrifice to their limits.
No need to trek to the movie theatre to find a compelling story about World War II. Throw some popcorn in the microwave, grab one of these books, and settle into your cozy armchair for a front-row seat view into this tragic, fascinating and compelling era.
About Julia Justiss
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family’s East Texas homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen’s Regency England.
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing historical fiction.
“Duty can also be pleasure, Lady Alyssa…”
When politician Benedict Tawny set out to save Lady Alyssa from a nefarious plot, he never expected to find himself trapped in a compromising situation with the alluring lady! Now duty demands he propose…and claim her as his bride!
Tainted by his illegitimacy, Ben knows he can’t give Alyssa the life of luxury she deserves. But if he can convince her to succumb to the undeniable heat between them, their convenient marriage might just lead to the love of a lifetime!
Romance Historical [Harlequin Historical Romance, On Sale: February 21, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780373299218 / eISBN: 9781488021190]