What a fun way for me to gush about what I love to read. I love how there are a million different stories to tell even when you focus on one narrow little slice of life. And it was very easy for me to pick out my genre – yup, I definitely have a “type” when it comes to picking out books!
Question 1: What is your favorite genre?
My genre is historical fiction, specifically WWII. And even more specifically, novels set in Europe during and right after WWII.
Question 2: What is your favorite author from that genre?
This is really difficult to answer. I might actually say Joanne Harris – while not all of her novels are set during this time period, most of what I’ve read by her still has that same feel that I love about WWII historical fiction, which is so hard to articulate. The novel of hers that initially springs to mind is Five Quarters of the Orange, which is set in a French Village that is occupied by Nazi forces. And while I wasn’t able to find it explicitly stated, Chocolat seems to be set not long after WWII – also in a French village! I’ve really tried to understand what it is about these two books for me. Why do I love them so much? And this is probably going to sound strange, but I love the food. I love the description of french food and how simple and straightforward it was during that time period – yet incredibly delicious! And beyond that, village life is fascinating to me. During the war, things were so stressful and there was so much fear right on the surface, and villages have the ability to portray that in unique and interesting ways. Does that even make sense?
Question 3: What is it about the genre that keep pulling you back?
So many of these novels are painful and I ask myself that same question every time I’m sobbing into the pages of a book. Why do I do this to myself? But I think that’s my answer. It’s such raw human emotion. It’s overcoming incredible circumstances, which the characters in these books have so little control over, and surviving (usually). You see people starving because there is no food – but they find ways to feed their families. You see women who have had incredible partnerships with their husbands, and then their husbands are sent to war – but they find ways to continue with their lives. You see people being treated in the most inhumane ways possible – but they still find ways to love and to show their own humanity. It is inspirational and it makes me hug my babies just a little bit tighter. It makes me thankful for all of the things that I have and all of the people that I love. It’s a reminder of what humans can do to each other at their worst, and then how we can band together and help each other through anything.
Question 4: What is the book that started your love for the genre?
The very first book that I can remember reading in this genre was Number the Stars. I think that I was in the third or fourth grade, and I can still feel my heart pounding. I can remember the palpable fear that was portrayed in this novel. It was incredible. Early in my life, I also read The Diary of a Young Girl, which is the diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl hiding in an attic. And another YA book that doesn’t get much WWII credit is The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which begins with the four young children being sent to live in the country in order to keep them safe while London is being bombed.
Question 5: If you had to recommend at least one book from your favorite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
I have two recommendations for this question.
If you are looking for a relatively light hearted and fun book, I would recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I read this a few years ago when I was suffering from a major reading drought. I was trying so hard, but I couldn’t get into anything. And then a coworker put this book into my hands and – rejoice! – it did the trick. This book is written entirely in letters between two people, so there are a lot of natural stopping places, which makes it easy to pick up and put down. It’s a wonderful snapshot of living in a village occupied by German forces, and it focuses on the love of reading – which naturally led to more and more reading for me!
But if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, then I would recommend The Nightingale. This is a newer release that is set in France during WWII. The themes are much heavier in this book and it is much more painful to read. But this book is exactly why I read this genre. There were food descriptions – like the Joanne Harris that I described above – but there were also incredible human connections in this novel. It focuses on two sisters that resist the war in very different ways – they are both far out of their comfort zones and make such incredible impacts. Seriously – I’m tearing up as I type this. I read this book on the beach this summer and was sobbing. And by the end of the book? Big sloppy, snotty snorts of tears. You know the kind I’m talking about, I’m sure.
Question 6: Why do you read?
My parents always taught me that reading was important for learning – and I love to learn. For me, reading provides experiences that I’ll never have. And reading about those experiences allow for a more well rounded world view, which is necessary for forming opinions on anything. I always hesitate to say this because I’m fully aware of how patronizing it sounds, but when a person doesn’t read, they’re missing out on ways to become a better person. You learn to build empathy when you’re reading something from someone else’s perspective. You realize that people have different values than you do – and that doesn’t make them a bad person. And you can also see how, really, we’re all just human beings and we’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got.
Laila – I am honored that you tagged me! Thank you so much – I think that I had a little too much fun writing this post 🙂 I won’t tag anyone because I don’t really have that many readers. But PLEASE! If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged! And be sure to comment and let me know that you’ve written a post, just in case I’m not already following you.
And of course, if you know of a WWII novel that you think I’d love, please tell me about it!