I love a good alternative take on a well-known topic. The two book choices for this week feature characters we don’t normally meet in historical fiction written about WWII. Both books were highly enjoyable and left me wanting to research some actual history on the topic (I know my old history teachers are leaping for joy at the thought 😉 ).
The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
Death needs a vacation. But, that’s not really possible, since he is, after all, kind of irreplaceable. So, because Death doesn’t get to take a break, he finds little ways to achieve peace. What does this have to do with book thievery? I’ll just say that Death becomes fascinated with the story of a German girl he knows as “The Book Thief.”
But, this is a book not just about Death or the girl herself, but it is about the relationships that the girl finds with a neighbor boy, a shopkeeper, an accordion player, and a Jewish fist fighter among others. Despite all of the sadness surrounding Germany in WWII, this book manages to achieve moments of brightness and laughter in the spots of sad.
I highly recommend the audiobook for this piece. The narrator, Allan Corduner, does a brilliant job of creating voices that feel real without being unintentionally comical. Plus, his lovely British accent gives Death quite the rakish flair.
Quote: “The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”
You’ll enjoy this if: you’re a fan of the movie Life is Beautiful¸ you enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and you’re not afraid of slightly sad books.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
“Careless words costs lives” as our heroine says. So, I’m going to keep our little debriefing, well, brief.
Our main character is a young woman with many names and with good reason. She’s a being held captive and tortured for information. Her captors are torturing her for information, and in an effort to capitulate, she’s telling the story of Queenie and Maddie two best friends that just happen to be a wireless operator and a pilot in the middle of WWII. But keep in mind that she has a propensity to be both unreliable and jump around in her narrative as she is writing down the story for the purposes of her captors. So, we get to see both the past and the present in her tale.
I’ve never been a serious history buff, but I really enjoyed how the author plotted this story. There are some interesting twists and turns, and you feel wholly invested in both the lives of Queenie and Maddie. The author really did her research on this book, and although the storyline isn’t true, the occupations of the girls during the war did actually exist. Women really did fly planes, operate wire systems, act as spys, and serve in very real and necessary occupations during the war. The story is truly haunting (in a good way). The two women stick with you, and make you really believe in their story and hope for their success.
You’ll enjoy this if: you’re a fan of the History Channel (like old school History Channel), you enjoy a good kickass girl story, and you want a fast-paced realistic gasp-inducing story.
Quote: “I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.”
Disclosure in agreement with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255 and other legal nonsense: One or more of the books reviewed on this blog was provided as an advanced review copy. However, I am not paid for or required to write positive reviews. In fact, if I don’t like it, you won’t hear about it! Are you still reading this? Here, go read one of these instead.