Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly follows the lives of three young women from the beginning to the end of WWII. Caroline Ferriday is a Washington socialite who volunteers at the French Consulate trying to arrange charitable funding for French orphanages. Herta Oberheuser has just finished her German medical degree and is finding it very difficult to be hired in any capacity. This is a time when women doctors were still very unusual in Germany. In desperation, she answered an ad for a governmental medical position. She is shocked and frightened when she eventually learns what she is expected to do. A Polish teenager, Kasia Kuzmerick, longs for a more exciting life. She thinks she has found a purpose when she becomes a courier for the underground after Germany has successfully invaded Poland. The intersection of their lives is inevitably tragic. Ravensbruck is a concentration camp for women only. Terrible medical experiments were carried out there. This is a tale of tragedy that leaves you with hope.
The London Blitz gives atmosphere and seriousness to Chris Cleave’s novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Mary North leaves finishing school on the day war is declared and signs up to volunteer in any capacity. Her assignment is to work at a school even though she has no experience teaching. While she is working at organizing children who are evacuated from London, she meets Tom Shaw, a school administrator, and becomes involved with him. Tom’s roommate Alistair Heath enlists in the Army very early in the war. The novel alternates between these characters and the situations they are in from 1939 to 1942. It touches on so many of the things that happened to people; the Blitz, evacuation of children, wartime shortages, and hazardous training exercises. In spite of these topics, it still showcases the humor that is necessary for people to survive and stay sane during such a terrible time. This is a wartime novel that focuses on people and relationships rather than the war.
People who have made a more hopeless mess of their lives than the two couples in Jennifer Close’s novel, The Hopefuls, would be difficult to find. Beth and Matt are a recently married couple who have relocated to Washington D. C. from New York. Matt is somewhat of a political junkie so Beth feels she has to support the move even though she greatly prefers New York. They become close friends with another couple, Jimmy and Ashleigh, who are from Texas. The men bond over their jobs in the political world and the wives enjoy each other’s company. So much of the infighting is revealed as they pursue their careers in the Obama administration. One character takes great pride in his knowledge of what kind of snacks Obama prefers. Jimmy comes closer to a political election when friends from Texas persuade him to run for Railroad Commissioner. He asks Matt to be his campaign manager. What will happen to these people to whom winning is everything?
We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley is the haunting novel of a NYC woman’s search for a perfect life partner. Catherine West leads an exquisite life. She has money, beauty, a small business, and an active social life. Her only problem is that at 43 she has not met a man who meets her exacting standards. It seems that problem has been solved when she meets William Stockton. He seems like the perfect partner, with a good job, good looks, and he is very attracted to her. While talking about their histories, they realize that they have a family connection. When Catherine asks her mother what she remembers about William, she expects that her mother’s answer will be clouded by Alzheimer’s. She is surprised by how vehemently her mother reacts to William’s name. The only coherent reason for her dislike is that William broke a valuable vase when visiting with his parents. Catherine certainly doesn’t see that as a good reason to break up a wonderful romance. Trouble begins after their marriage. When Catherine suddenly has no money, some very unexpected facts emerge about William. The book is an absorbing look at the lives of wealthy New Yorkers and has a surprise twist at the end.
If you read A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin you will never think about the Cinderella story the same way again. The novel could be defined as a fantasy or alternate history. An unspecified war is going on in an undefined country, so a nine year old boy is sent to spend the summer with his grandmother at a small seaside town. At the beginning of the summer an enemy plane is shot down, falling into the ocean. The boy, who is nameless all through the book, is taken by his grandmother into the “Grove of Monsters”, a supposedly haunted wood behind her cottage. The mysterious Mr. Girandole summoned them to help him with something unusual that had happened in the wood. Girandole is the only character who is given a full name. He proves to be a character with unusual talents. The young boy is driven to solve the mystery of the Grove of Monsters. This is a fantasy filled with very real family members with charming relationships. The villains and the nosy neighbors are also very real characters. If you don’t usually read fantasy novels, this might be one to try.
Apples don’t fall far from trees; like father, like son. These idioms hold true in Debbie Macomber’s new book, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On.
Dad Sean and son Jake liked to step outside their marital bounds. Sean dallied for thirty plus years and Jake for five. But the wives were much stronger together than as one, and both filed for divorce at the same time. Sean and Jake were unbelievably surprised and devastated, and stalled proceedings at every turn. But Leanne and Nichole drew inner strength from each other and started over in apartments in the same building, in a new town, with new faces, new opportunities and new love. Macomber writes an inspiring story about strength, friendship, hope and of course, love.
It is the beginning of May 1937 and you are a passenger on a zeppelin, the Hindenburg, on a flight from Berlin to New Jersey. The novel Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon fictionalizes that last, fatal flight. The characters include an angry American businessman, the first woman stewardess on a zeppelin, a German female reporter who has just had her press card revoked, and an eager young cabin boy. The Hindenburg has been used as German propaganda to showcase the technological marvels that the Nazi regime can manufacture. The novel’s characters are just beginning to realize what a threat to personal freedom the Nazis can be. The reporter wonders if her reporting privileges were curtailed because of her Jewishness instead of her controversial stories. Widowhood has given the stewardess a Germanic name, but her maiden name is Jewish. She is planning to remain in America after the airship lands. An accurate explanation for the Hindenburg disaster has never been established, so Lawhon has used artistic license to create a possible answer to the question of what caused the explosion.