While I did not use these books in my research for The Altered I: a Holocaust Memoir, I did enjoy reading them. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. In a previous post I gave my personal recommendations for nonfiction, this is my recommendation for fiction:
- The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Synopsis: Liesel is a young girl living in Germany with a foster family. She has a love affair with books and words. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, just about wherever books are found. Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement and Liesel’s world is expanded and contracted. A compelling read with an unusual structure and narrator: Death! I recommend.
- Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, Judy Blume
Synopsis: It is 1947 and Sally has moved to Miami Beach for her brother’s health. She has her eye on a cute boy, dreams of being the next Esther Williams, and is convinced that Mr. Zavodsky is Hitler in disguise.
OK, I’ll admit, this is a children’s book, but this was an important book for me as a kid. It really shaped my ideas and interests in the Holocaust. This book is recommend for grades 4-7.
- Jacob’s Courage, Charles Weinblatt
Synopsis: a love story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Because Jacob and Rachael are Jews their families lose everything. Growing up in the Holocaust, so to speak, they face horrible acts of violence. The story follows them through the Theresienstadt Ghetto, Auschwitz and ultimately as fighters in the underground against Nazi enemies. Based on the author’s own family history this is a tale not for the weak of stomach.
Bear in mind this is fiction and the author took some liberties with facts and time period. A little long in parts, sometimes meandering off topic, a little repetitive, and more telling than showing, it is still a remarkable story and admirable work for a first novel. It is available in e-book.
- The Pawnbroker, Edward Lewis Wallant
Synopsis: Sol Nazurman survived the Holocaust. His wife and children did not. He lives now in Harlem, NY, U.S.A., as a pawnbroker. He is emotionally dead and indifferent to the human problems around him. This is an incredible story of survival after survival. I highly recommend this book.
- Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
Synopsis: the dual story of Julia Jarmond, a journalist in present day Paris, and Sarah, a little Jewish girl living in Paris during WWII . Julia is covering the story of the Vel d’hiv (Winter Velodrome) roundup. Sarah is a little girl who experiences it first hand. The story alternates between Sarah’s point of view and Julia’s. I like this technique, and the story of the Vel d’Hiv roundup is a little known part of history.
- Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
Synopsis: Sophie is a beautiful Polish woman living in New York when a young southern writer first encounters her. Sophie is hiding much of her past, but as the story unfolds we learn that she was a survivor of Auschwitz and hides a terrible secret. This is a strange and compelling story of three lives: the young writer, Stingo, Nathan, Sophie’s Jewish lover, and Sophie herself, who is trying to escape her past and the horrifying choice she was forced to make.
I have read a lot of books, but these stand out in my mind as the better told ones, and are ones I feel comfortable recommending.
These are on my to-be-read list:
The Good German, Joseph Kanon
Fatherland, Robert Harris
Spandau Phoenix, Greg Iles
Churchills’ Secret Agent, Max and Linda Ciampoli