Feb 23, 1945, photographer Joe Rosenthal

This month in the April A to Z Challenge, I am posting about books, fiction, and nonfiction that are about or set in the Second World War.  The war and the people who experienced it have stories to tell and these stories are so overwhelming they lend themselves to greatness.  I encourage you to sample some of these stories.  I promise you will not regret taking the time.  To help me develop an alphabetical list for this challenge, I used Goodreads.com.  Did you know that there are more than 883 fiction and 480 nonfiction books in this genre on the website’s Listopia as voted on by members?  That is a lot of stories and facts just waiting for us to explore.


As I write this, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay is in my audiobook queue awaiting my finishing my current read.  I am really looking forward to this story.  It is currently number 10 on the Goodreads member list of best fiction about the Second World War so I think I will be pleased with my choice.

Paris under occupation seems to be a common theme in novels in this genre.  In this novel, Tatiana de Rosnay brings us a portrait of France in this time period and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.  It is July 1942 and in Paris, Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

I hadn’t heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup or at least not that title before so let’s see what it is all about.

Now in the novel, it is May 2002 in Paris on the 60th anniversary of Vel’ d’Hiv.  Journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Sarah’s Key was release as a movie starring Kristin Scott Thomas in 2010′


Don’t stop there.  So many other books about or set in the time of war are available.  Here are a few links to Goodreads:

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut  I was going to use this for my post as I had written about Dresden before which included reference to this novel.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchik

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara

Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942–1943 by Antony Beevor

Survival in Auschwitz (Auschwitz Trilogy #1) by Primo Levi, Stuart J. Woolf (Translator), Philip Roth (Afterword)

The Second World War: A Complete History by Martin Gilbert

Shinano!: The Sinking of Japan’s Secret Supership by Joseph F. Enright, James W. Ryan

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green (I remember this as a TV movie starring Christy McNichols).  Here is a blast from by tween years.

6 responses

  1. hilarymb says:

    Hi MaryAnn – I saw the film … heart rending … but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the book – another facet of life in Paris at that time – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kim says:

    The occupation of Paris really has provided fodder for so much literature and in multiple languages. The first I read was for sixth form French Lit and I remember being so horrified and gripped, even while being challenged by the language gap.


  3. calensariel says:

    I’ve read this book a couple of times, but I hated the movie. I felt it was done very shoddily.


  4. The book is well done and brought me a new understanding of France’s role in the war. Somehow I missed the fact that a film had been made. Doesn’t sound like the movie is recommended by one of your readers. But the book, definitely.