BY MEGAN TAYLOR
One of my all-time favorite genres to read is historical fictional. I’m a history lover and can spend hour after hour reading a historical fiction novel. The mix of real events and a made-up tale, what more could a reader want? Throughout the years, our writers and myself have read many novels from this genre. For May’s “Writers Who Read,” let’s look at our favorite historical fiction reads including The Book Thief, Before We Were Yours,” and “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Nominated as one of PBS’s The Great American Read and quoted by The New York Times as being “the kind of book that can be life-changing,” The Book Thief is set between 1939 – 1943 in Nazi Germany. Living outside of Munich in the fictional town of Molching, nine-year-old orphan Liesel Meminger’s life changes when she finds the book, The Gravedigger’s Handbook, by her brother’s grave. Liesel takes this book home with her; yet, she doesn’t know how to read. With the help of her foster father, Liesel learns to read and falls in love with novels and their characters. Unable to retrieve or buy books, Liesel begins stealing them from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, and other places throughout the city. Life gets turned upside down when her family hides a Jewish man in her basement (remember it is Germany 1939 – the time of Adolf Hitler). Published in 2005, readers are taken through a journey of living in a dangerous time, Liesel’s confident actions, and her life after the war. The Book Thief is overshadowed by the theme of death, but gives readers a chance to have in-depth discussions about the book’s theme rather than feeling a sense of grief. The Book Thief is a must-read for historical fiction fans, especially ones who love World War II.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Writer Jean Marie Johnson classifies the novel, Before We Were Yours, as “hard to put down.” “Everyone in my book club had a heartfelt response to this compelling read,” stated Johnson. Published in 2017, readers are introduced to twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings living in Memphis, Tennessee during 1939. The Foss family lives on a Mississippi River shanty boat. However, their family’s lives are quickly changed when their father rushes their mother to the hospital one stormy night, leaving Rill in charge. While their parents are gone, their boat is captured by strangers who put the children in the care of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. The children are told they will be given back to their parents, however, things quickly change and they realize the world they once knew is no longer there. Readers are also brought into present day Aiken, South Carolina and meet Avery Stafford, a wealthy and successful federal prosecutor. She returns home to help her father with his health, but is thrown into a journey that makes her discover her family’s long-hidden history. “This story is a compassionate account of a family’s grief, love, and lives torn apart by a ‘child abduction for pay’ practice based on historical fact that gives insight into an institution and the many ‘rich and powerful’ who turned a blind eye to its practices,” said Johnson. “It is written with skill, compassion, grace, and respect for children and families deemed society’s outcasts.”
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Set in London, England 1946, shortly after World War II, writer Juliet Ashton is on the mission for her next book. Living on the island of Guernsey, Charles Lamb comes across one of Ashton’s books. The two begin to exchange letters and Ashton is introduced to Lamb’s life, friends, and the new Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Lamb and the other members create this society in response to breaking the curfew set in place by the Germans occupying the island. Through the letters, Ashton learns about the island of Guernsey, their books, and the German occupation. Along the way, she finds an idea for her new novel and a new way of life in Guernsey. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a perfect read for people of all ages.
If you are looking for your next novel to read, these three are great options for not only historical fiction fans, but book lovers everywhere.