Goodnight from London

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

In June, 1940, Ruby Sutton, a young reporter in New York City, accepts an assignment to report on the war from London at Picture Weekly magazine. Ruby, as an American, brings a fresh perspective to stories of home front England and the Blitz, mentored by veteran photographer Mary Buchanan and editor Kaz. Ruby is befriended by Captain Bennett, who has a secret wartime job; a romance seems likely. Over the next few years, Ruby, raised in an orphanage, finds a new family and home in London. A very compelling read, there are naturally some poignant scenes, but this is more heartwarming than many novels set during the war. If you’re in the mood for an excellent historical novel with memorable characters, this is a sure bet. For more about Ruby, Kaz, and Bennett, read The Gown, which we’re discussing Tuesday night at the library. Readalikes include books by Jennifer Ryan, Lissa Evans, Beatriz Williams, and AJ Pearce.
Brenda

 

An American Agent

An American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

Private investigator Maisie and her friend Priscilla spend a few evenings a week driving an ambulance in London during the blitz. Catherine Saxon, an American reporter, rides along one night, reports what she saw on the radio, and is found dead the next day. Maisie and her assistant Billy investigate, with occasional help from an attractive American agent, Mark Scott. Maisie visits Catherine’s boarding house, and meets with her friends, all while worried about her family in Kent, where she spends weekends. An intriguing puzzle, appealing characters, and a fast-paced story make this a memorable mystery. The first book in the long-running series is Maisie Dobbs.

Brenda

The Spies of Shilling Lane

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

This is a rare World War II novel set on the home front in London that is both suspenseful and joyous. Mrs. Braithwaite isn’t the most appealing character as she’s booted out of her village women’s club (she’s both bossy and divorced), but when she reaches London she begins to transform. Her daughter Betty is missing, and though they’re not at all close, Mrs. Braithwaite goes in search. Betty’s anxious landlord Mr. Norris is surprised to find himself involved in Mrs. B’s quest and they get caught up in a bombing raid during the Blitz. Betty is a spy for MI5 trying to uncover Nazi sympathizers, and turns out to need assistance from her mother and Mr. Norris. I enjoyed the quirky characters, and found this novel by the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir a delight to read.
Brenda

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Perfect summer reading for fans of historical fiction. Lulu Randolph is in the Bahamas in 1941 as a correspondent for a New York magazine, secretly filing stories about the glamorous Duke and Duchess of Windsor. An unexpected romance with scientist Benedict Thorpe later leads Lulu to London and Switzerland. Alternate chapters tell the bittersweet story of Elfriede, suffering from post-partum depression in the Swiss alps, and her connection to Benedict’s family. History, royalty, war-time intrigue and romance make for an absorbing read; sure to be popular with book groups. This novel will be published on July 7.

Brenda

At the Wolf’s Table

At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino

Ten women seated around a table, eating delicious food, then spending an hour resting or chatting in a courtyard. Beautifully described, yet not at all a calm scene, as the women are tasting Hitler’s food, which may be poisoned. Rosa Sauer was conscripted after moving in with her husband’s parents in Gross-Partsch, in East Prussia. Rosa, a secretary in Berlin before marrying engineer Gregor, was bombed out of two apartments. Gregor is away at the front, and seems increasingly remote. The women, bussed daily to Hitler’s secret headquarters, occasionally clash but gradually become friendly. Who can you trust? What will you do to survive? The reader doesn’t know the year, or when the war will be over, nor do the women waiting for the men of the village to return from the war. Hard to put down, even before the sense of danger from the food, the guards, and the war intensifies. A compelling, memorable read that’s based on a true story, translated from Italian by Leah Janeczko. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan is a readalike.

Brenda

Daughter of Moloka’i

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Moloka’i was a bestseller and a favorite with book clubs, but I hadn’t read it until I heard about this forthcoming sequel. Daughter of Moloka’i is the compelling story of Ruth, an adopted Hawaiian-Japanese girl who grew up in Hawai’i and California, and was later sent to internment camps with her family during World War II. The daily life, joys, disappointments and hardships of the Watanabe family make for engaging reading. After Ruth is a mother herself, she receives an unexpected letter from her birth mother, Rachel, who lived in the leper settlement on Moloka’i. This poignant, family-centered, ultimately hopeful novel can be read before or after reading Moloka’i, and is a real pleasure for fans of character-driven historical fiction.
Brenda

We Must Be Brave

27We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

This is a splendid, moving novel about a young woman and the girls she mothers in southern England in the mid 20th century. Ellen Parr, born well-off, struggles when her father loses his money. Trying to cope in a run-down cottage with her impractical mother, Ellen finds unexpected kindness from her schoolmate Lucy’s family and a local handyman. Ten years later, recently married Ellen finds young Pamela asleep on a bus after Southampton is bombed in December, 1940. Although Ellen’s husband, a miller, doesn’t want to keep Pamela, they do. Eventually, they have to give Pamela back to her relatives in a heart-wrenching scene. Much later, schoolgirl Penny needs somewhere to stay after a flood and during school holidays. This first novel, while a tearjerker at times, is a compelling, satisfying, and ultimately heartwarming read.
Brenda