Wartime Novels?

(77 Posts)
tethersend Thu 21-Mar-13 23:49:53

Set in Germany?

Or England?

Or anywhere?

Have just finished the good-in-parts-but-overall-grindingly-disappointing Dominion by C J Sansom and it's left me wanting something better. Have had a bash at Fatherland by Robert Harris, but it's not really doing it for me either.

Has anyone read anything good which would fit my apparently narrow field of interest?

LittlePushka Thu 21-Mar-13 23:52:32

Try Mila 18 - Leon Uris smile

NomenOmen Thu 21-Mar-13 23:56:27

The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen.

LittleBunnyFeileFooFoo Thu 21-Mar-13 23:59:26

A particular war, or any war?

the Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell takes place at the beginning of the 100 years war, in England and France.

dabdab Fri 22-Mar-13 00:01:42

Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks

CardinalRichelieu Fri 22-Mar-13 00:02:56

Enigma by Robert Harris is ace. It's about Bletchley Park and how they broke the uboat code for the North Atlantic, with a murder mystery mixed in

tigerdriverII Fri 22-Mar-13 00:03:34

Night Watch - Sarah Waters. WWII. Brilliant book, tons better than the tv adaptation.

SageBush Fri 22-Mar-13 00:05:00

The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker. Stunningly good - better than Birdsong, I think (though that is good too).

tigerdriverII Fri 22-Mar-13 00:18:26

Yy agree with Pat Barker. For a WWI period piece, try Siegfried Sassoon.

Yy to birdsong.

dashoflime Fri 22-Mar-13 00:33:33

Gone to Soldiers: Marge Piercy

Cremolafoam Fri 22-Mar-13 00:39:20

Alone in Berlin: hans Fallada but you might find it grindingly dull: not in the same way as sansome tho

April in Paris - love story between French girl and Nazi

Try Pam Jenoff if you want something a little fluffier

Elisabeth Elgin- fluffier still- lots if land girls and hunky Italian POWs

And Sarah's Key perhaps?

Cremolafoam Fri 22-Mar-13 00:40:27

Oh yes Irene Nemerovsky of course

BOEUF Fri 22-Mar-13 01:14:44

War Crimes For The Home. I think it's still reduced on Kindle. Really good.

GeorginaWorsley Fri 22-Mar-13 07:16:32

I love first and second world war novels
My dear I wanted to tell you,Louisa Young
David Downing's 'Station' novels,series set in Germany
Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series
The Last Summer,Andrew Grieg
Laura Wilson's Strachan series
Coming Home,Rosamunde Pilcher
Cazalet novels,Elizabeth Jane Howard
Will scouer bookshelves for more!

DuchessofMalfi Fri 22-Mar-13 08:13:45

I agree with Georgina My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is very good.

I've just finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. Whilst the lengthy first part is pre-war, the next two parts are about the evacuation from Dunkirk, and about nursing the wounded soldiers when they get back. That was when the book got very interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

Kyrptonite Fri 22-Mar-13 08:14:50

Ken Follet century trilogy. Well the two that have been released anyhow!

tripfiction Fri 22-Mar-13 08:46:48

Two Brothers by Ben Elton set in Berlin, very good

A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous

Philip Kerr books featurin Bernie Gunther

Ilovemyteddy Fri 22-Mar-13 09:53:23

Guernica by Dave Boling is fantastic (although the end is a bit dodgy.) Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn is a good read if you want something on life leading up to WW1. Charlotte Grey by Sebastian Faulks is an interesting read about a British woman working within the French Resistance movement.

And I loved Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay which was mentioned up thread.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 22-Mar-13 10:09:57

Shute's Pied Piper. One of my very favourite books. About an elderly man who finds himself in France at the start of the war and escorts a group of children to safety.

It was actually written at the time but is quite non-judgemental, just an uplifting story,

Birdsong is on my list to read.

cq Fri 22-Mar-13 10:13:00

Agree with all upthread

My Dear I wanted to Tell You
Birdsong - best book I've EVER read - really want DS (14) to read it but shame about the huge red room sex scene.
Sarah's Key.

Also Suite Francaise

And Those who Save Us

Sorry can't remember any authors and just dashing out.....

agnesf Fri 22-Mar-13 10:16:10

I second The Heat of the Day. Beautiful evocative book.

SorrelForbes Fri 22-Mar-13 10:17:28

Just put this on another thread but I can recommend another of Neville Shute's books: Reqiuem For A Wren.

tethersend Fri 22-Mar-13 10:17:55

Ok, I should have been more specific- I want WW2 only... But thank you for all the responses and recommendations!

I have read:

Alone in Berlin (loved)
A woman in Berlin (fascinating)
Two brothers (loved, surprisingly)
Atonement (was ok)

Have seen the film adaptation of Sarah's Key, so know the plot, which tends to spoil the book IYSWIM... Ditto night watch.

I don't really want fluffy stuff grin

Am off to google all the other suggestions. Thanks smile

tethersend Fri 22-Mar-13 10:19:35

How did the BBC adaptation of Birdsong compare to the book? Saw the first episode and it didn't grab me at all.

SorrelForbes Fri 22-Mar-13 10:21:29

RFAW is a love story but its definitely not fluffy. Very much of its time, themes of duty, bravery etc mixed in with guilt, love, sacrifice.

SorrelForbes Fri 22-Mar-13 10:22:26


I third Suite Francaise

Try if you can find a tranlation of Joseph Roth's novels (i don't mean stephen but joseph!). Not only are they true masterpieces of the xx literature, but give you a good insight of the collapse of the austrian empire in ww1.

Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse five, of course.

Not sure whether Elsa Morante has ever been translated into English, but her "la Storia" is a superb novel about Italy, fascism, desperation and ww2.

I enjoyed the nightwatch, but was underwhelmed by Birdsong.

nettie Fri 22-Mar-13 10:37:34

La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith, might be a bit fluffy for compared to others though.

MrsDeVere Fri 22-Mar-13 10:43:38

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit Judith Kerr
Its a kid's book but totally readable. There are others in the series too.

MrsDeVere Fri 22-Mar-13 10:45:07

I got very confused by Birdsong when it was on the telly. I was expecting Pat Barker and got totally mixed up and thought 'eh this didnt happen in the book'


I have read all the books btw

<even bigger idiot>

Oh yes suite francaise!
Birdsong was ok on tv but the book was really lovely.
It's being produced on stage in Dublin soon, going to check it out and try to convert my friend to Sebastian Faulks

Didn't rate atonement by the way

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 22-Mar-13 11:33:53

nettie I don't think La's Orchestra is exactly fluffy. Quite a quick and easy read, but has some themes about identity and loyalty. I love the way the ending moves on to the Cuban missile crisis and they all gather for peace again.

For children's books, I agree with the suggestion of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Adolphus Tips is very good, the ending has me in tears each time. I also love Carrie's War.

Oh, The boy in the striped pyjamas and Goodnight Mr Tom for more kids ones that are still readable as an adult.

Ilovemyteddy Fri 22-Mar-13 11:46:39

Another children's book is The Silver Sword by Ian Serralier which had a profound effect on me as a child. And Blitzcat by Robert Westall is fantastic.

tethersend Fri 22-Mar-13 11:50:51

Have read Goodnight Mr. Tom, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Judith Kerr's trilogy. Loved Judith Kerr, hated TBITSP, and Mr. Tom was ok.

Google list is getting longer! Thanks again smile

Cremolafoam Fri 22-Mar-13 12:11:44

Stasiland by Anna Funder is a well researched book about the Cold War

The Reader - Bernhard Schlink

My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young
( about The Lebensborn Project)

Vienna by Eva Menasse ( about German Jewish refugees )

DuchessofMalfi Fri 22-Mar-13 12:20:46

There's a children's book - Carrie's War by Nina Bawden, about evacuated children sent to Wales. I read it as a child and loved it, but I think it's one of those books that could be re-read as an adult for nostalgia grin

Also, The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. A little odd, but set in WWII. Didn't really understand why the bit about Rudolph Hess was in there, but nevertheless is an ok read.

Schindler's Ark by Thomas Kenneally. Excellent novel (but based very closely on fact).

Lilymaid Fri 22-Mar-13 12:26:48

"I got very confused by Birdsong"
You aren't the only one MrsDeVere! I get thoroughly confused between what was in Birdsong, the Pat Barker books and Robert Graves (Goodbye to all That) and Siegfried Sassoon (Memoirs of an Infantry Officer).

JeanBodel Fri 22-Mar-13 12:28:07

HMS Ullysses by Alistair McClean.

Takver Fri 22-Mar-13 12:28:30

Not a novel, but have you read Testament of Experience, by Vera Brittain?

Interesting because although I think many of us would disagree with the political stance she takes (pacifist) obviously it is a result of her experiences in WW1. I'd definitely recommend it.

Badvoc Fri 22-Mar-13 12:34:23

Enigma is good.
How about the girl at the lion dor

MrsDeVere Fri 22-Mar-13 12:35:14

bless you lily
I felt very dim.
Now I know its not just me grin

I love books set in WW1 , WWII and between.

I just LOVE them.

I am also wildly excited that Foyles War is due back on shortly.

I know its all romanticised. I am under no illusions. My Dad's family were bombed out 7 times.
I visited my G.grandand's memorial at Tyne Cot a few years back.

But I still love the escapism these books bring me.

MrsDeVere Fri 22-Mar-13 12:37:27

Silver Sword had the same affect on me. I think I must have been very young because the school were very impressed that I had read it (either that or they had very low expectations of me). I think that book and Hitler stole Pink Rabbit are what started me off on this love of war time fiction and memoir.

Lilymaid Fri 22-Mar-13 12:40:52

Another plug for the Cazalets - four volumes of easy to read literary fiction set just before and during WWII.

Cremolafoam Fri 22-Mar-13 12:52:47

Just remembered The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell.

Ilovemyteddy Fri 22-Mar-13 13:08:57

Oh and how could I have forgotten HHhH by Laurent Binet which is my favourite read of the year so far. It's based on the true story of the assassination attempt on Heydrich in Czechoslovakia and is wonderful.

Thewhingingdefective Fri 22-Mar-13 13:13:55

Private Peaceful - Michael Morpurgo
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

Both WW1

LittleBoxes Fri 22-Mar-13 13:20:03

The Fortunes of War books by Olivia Manning. There's the Balkan Trilogy and the Levant Trilogy. Brilliant books you can immerse yourself in.

Matsikula Fri 22-Mar-13 13:43:34

Tin Drum by Gunter Grass? Pretty divisive book, but it's definitely not fluffy.

Not a novel, but very readable memoirs - My Past Is Myself by Christabel Bielenberg, who was a British woman married to a German anti-Nazi.

Not strictly relevant but I recently saw a film called Lore which was set in the immediate aftermath of the war, based on a book called the Dark
Room by Rachel Seifert. haven't read the book but I really enjoyed the film.

the Reader is also good, but I think it was a bit over-hyped (mind you, I didn't think Birdsong was that great, not a patch on Regeneration).

oh, also, blackly comic rather than fluffy - the Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh.

GeorginaWorsley Fri 22-Mar-13 21:37:09

John Lawton's Troy series,set before during and after WW2
Alan Furst writes spy thrillers set in 1930's and 1940's
I recently read Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper which was good
The Devil's Handshake by Murray Davies,set in Bavaria
Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe
Tim Binding's An Island Madness and Guy Walter's The Occupation,both about the Channel ISlands

Can you guess I love this era grin

BestIsWest Fri 22-Mar-13 21:54:34

Talking of the Channel Islands, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer.

Cremolafoam Fri 22-Mar-13 23:01:42

Oh and Agent Zigzag, Ben macintyres book about spies ( starts off in Jersey)

careergirl Sat 23-Mar-13 15:49:33

Night Sky by Clare Francis. In fact I want to re-read that some time since I did and I was absorbed by it.

Ilovemyteddy Sun 24-Mar-13 13:39:43

Following on from the Channel Islands theme, I really enjoyed The Collaborator by Margaret Leroy. And, not Channel Islands, but The Postmistress by Sarah Blake was also good.

ninjanurse Sun 24-Mar-13 18:17:27

Jackdaws by Ken Follett - female allied spies parachuting into Nazi occupied France

Waswondering Sun 24-Mar-13 18:21:45

A town like Alice by Neville Shute .... Set in Pacific war then Australia. I really, really enjoyed that one.

Second Coming Home ... More airport fiction, that, but very good.

Also I got one about the land girls - that may have been the title - as a bargain on the kindle.


DuchessofMalfi Sun 24-Mar-13 18:53:21

The Book of Ebenezer le Page by G B Edwards. It's mainly about an old man's recollections of life on the island of Guernsey, stretching from the Boer War when he was a child through to his old age, but he lives through the German occupation of Guernsey. It's not wholly about WW2 but is covered.

Also, I can't see whether anyone's already mentioned Fair Stood The Wind For France by H E Bates. As far as I can recall it's about a wounded airman in occupied France, trying to escape back to England and avoids capture by hiding out in a farmhouse, helped by the family who live there.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Sun 24-Mar-13 18:56:53

Black Out and All Clear by Connie Willis - time travel in the Blitz. Divides opinion, but I enjoyed them.

GeorginaWorsley Mon 25-Mar-13 21:42:53

Ooh Duchess I loved the Ebenezer Le Page book.

CaipirinhasAllRound Mon 25-Mar-13 23:14:54

I'm surprised no-one's mentioned The Book Thief - brilliant, especially if you like a book that makes you cry

Cremolafoam Tue 26-Mar-13 14:04:05

Oh of course - somehow thought it had been mentioned alreadyshock

William Boyd - Restless.

Pollaidh Tue 26-Mar-13 14:23:29

Pat Barker's trilogy
Eveleyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy all excellent.
The Welsh Girl
Making History - Stephen Fry (brilliant, part history and part future)
The Morning Gift - Eva Ibbotson (quite light but a good read)
The Biggles books!
A Little Love Song and Goodnight Mr Tom (Michelle Magorian, children's books but excellent)
John Buchan's Richard Hannay books (39 Step, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast) are great fun, set just pre-1914, and during WWI.
Richard Evan's 3 non-fiction books setting out how the Nazis came to power, and WWII are fascinating and really well written and researched.
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller, funny and bleak, absolute classic.

mimbleandlittlemy Wed 27-Mar-13 17:09:45

As well as all the above, Olivia Manning's two trilogies which form Fortunes of War - The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy - are wonderful reads and will keep you going for a day or two. BBC adapted them brilliantly about 25 years ago back in the days when both Emma Thompson and Kenneth Brannagh were young and so was I.

There's also Island Madness by Tim Binding about the German occupation of the Channel Islands which is excellent.

highlandcoo Mon 01-Apr-13 07:02:34

Loads of good suggestions above - I love this period too. Just a couple to add:

I enjoyed 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson. Set in 1946 and deals with a family reunited after being separated for 6 years during the war.

Nourishment by Gerard Woodward has a similar theme but with more black humour - quite a quirky read.

mimbleandlittlemy Wed 03-Apr-13 11:24:37

Just finished the new Kate Atkinson, Life After Life, and that has a great chunk set in WW2, from angles not normally explored too.

mixedmamameansbusiness Wed 10-Apr-13 16:37:28

The English German Girl - words fail me, it is just beautiful.

highlandcoo Wed 10-Apr-13 19:43:24

Just checked out The English German Girl on Amazon, mixedmama and put it on my wish list. Thanks for the recommendation.

If you'd like to read another novel with a similar theme, try Far To Go by Alison Pick, which also deals with the Kindertransport. We read it for our book group and then linked up with the author on Skype for a Q&A session. She had become a mum after completing the book and said she would have found it much harder to write had she already had children. The scenes at the railway station were pretty heart-wrenching I recall.

SnowWoman Wed 10-Apr-13 19:51:28

I loved Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi.

mixedmamameansbusiness Wed 10-Apr-13 21:31:49

Highland coo wil add that right now. I read extensively on the Holocaust in a non FIC capacity so fiction around this theme is terribly hard to read but so interesting.

mayaswell Thu 11-Apr-13 14:58:29

Charlotte Grey by Sebastian Faulks.

marissab Fri 12-Apr-13 15:32:55

Has anyone recommended maus? It's a graphic nobel that is beyond amazing. It's a mouse asking his grandfather about his war experiences and it's accounts of life for jews and life in concentraion camps is amazing couples with the vivid images. Truely excellent.

Graceparkhill Sat 13-Apr-13 22:18:05

I am currently reading Black Roses by Jane Thynne. The story of a young English actress in Berlin in 1933 who socialises with the Nazi wives.
Seems very well researched and is readable rather than high brow.

Also second the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard and highly recommend Saplings by Noel Streatfeild and Good Evening Mrs Craven by Mollie Panter -Downes.

HOWARDCG Sun 17-Aug-14 00:52:44

I was on a book site, talking about Olivia Manning, and the Balkan Trilogy.
I have been told that one of the characters resembles Elizabeth David, and I was just curious as to which character.
I enjoy both Olivia Manning, and Elizabeth David and from reading their biographies they were both remarkable women. Over our 50+ years of marriage my wife has gone through a number of Elizabeth David books, if you use them for cooking they do eventually fall apart and need replacing which I have done on a number of occasions. Unfortunately my wife no longer cooks, is regretfully in care, but I am attempting to carry the baton forward using Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, and of course Nigel Lawson.
any clues as to the identity of the various persons mentioned by Olivia Manning would be welcome many thanks.

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