The Words I Never Wrote
When Juno Lambert purchases a 1931 typewriter, she discovers documents that detail the lives of sisters Cordelia and Irene. Cordelia wrote a series of letters to her sister, Irene, trying to warn her about her marriage. As a journalist, Cordelia has access to information that she is convinced means that her sister’s husband has ties to the Nazis. But the mystery is incomplete, and, as Juno digs further into the sisters’ story, she discovers that a long-buried secret had a huge impact in their lives.
Martha Hall Kelly
Eliza Ferriday travels to St. Petersburg in 1914, while Europe moves toward World War I. There she socializes with Sofya Streshnayva, a member of the royal Romanov family. When World War I begins, Eliza goes home to the U.S., but as she watches developments abroad, she becomes determined to save Sofya. Martha Hall Kelly’s novel is about the dedication each woman has to their friendship, and how they will have to persevere in order to save Sofya’s life.
I Was Anastasia
After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Tsar and his family were executed. But in the next decade, in Berlin, a woman named Anna Anderson declares that she was Anastasia, one of the Tsar’s daughters. She gathered many followers and she was feted in Europe and America. For sixty years, Anna insisted that she was a member of the Romanov family. Was she? Ariel Lawson fills in the details of a remarkable life in this work of historical fiction.
The Secrets We Kept
Before Doctor Zhivago became a hit film, it was a novel by Boris Pasternak, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but was prevented from leaving the USSR to receive it. However, the book would never have made it to the world if not for the brave women who aided in smuggling it out of the Soviet Union. Having their identities revealed would have led to imprisonment or worse. The risks they took for a book drives the action in this compelling novel and will astonish readers.
Jennifer Cody Epstein
Ilse Fischer and Renate Bauer are teenaged best friends in Berlin. When Ilse joins the Nazi party, Renate is horrified: the Nazis have targeted people whom she loves. Renate feels increasingly threatened while Ilse thrives. Years later, Ava, Ilse’s daughter, will uncover evidence that her mother committed a horrendous act. As Ava wrestles with what her mother did, she learns of the devastating events that drove Ilse and Renate apart.
Before We Were Yours
Rill is the eldest child in charge of four younger siblings who are all left alone one night when a sudden medical emergency keeps their parents away from home. The officials who intervene insist that the parents were neglectful on that night, and the kids are placed in an orphanage. There they come into the orbit of an administrator who has found a horrible way to make money off the children in her care.
Kate has moved with her young family to her grandmother’s Missouri farm. Her relatives have given Kate the task of convincing her grandmother to move to a nursing home. But, as Kate learns more of her grandmother’s story and how a handmade notebook reveals truths about the older woman, she comes to understand essential information that the rest of her family has missed.
The Last Year of the War
While Americans are familiar with the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II, Meissner uncovers a little-known story in her latest novel. Elise Sontag is an Iowa teenager who leads an ordinary life in 1943. But when her father, a permanent resident, is accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, Elise and her family are imprisoned in a Texas internment camp. There, Elise becomes friends with Mariko, who is also experiencing the devastating impact of having been forced from her Los Angeles home. As the girls become close, they will be tested even further.
We Were the Lucky Ones
Readers meet the Kurcs of Radom, Poland as they laugh and joke with each other at a Seder. But the 1939 invasion of Poland by the Nazis will scatter the tight-knit family, as some are able to escape to refuge in other countries, while others face some of the 20th century’s darkest days. As they fight to be reunited, the struggles of each family member are brought to riveting life in Hunter’s novel.
We Must Be Brave
During World War II, many British children were evacuated away from cities under Luftwaffe bombardment. When little Pamela is found sleeping on a bus, no one knows who the girl is or where she is from. Newlywed Ellen Parr thinks that taking care of a child is the last thing she thinks she is ready for. But as the bond between her and Pamela grows strong, she suddenly can’t fathom saying goodbye to this little girl at the end of the war.
The Fountains of Silence
The overturning of the elected Spanish government and bloody civil war that followed resulted in the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. In 1957 Madrid, tourists are oblivious to the suffering around them. But when wealthy teenager Daniel Matheson arrives in hopes of seeing the land of his mother’s birth through his camera lens, the images he captures lead him to uncovering secrets that the powerful would prefer stay hidden.
The Blackbird Girls
Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko are neighbors who live outside Chernobyl. They don’t like each other, but when the reactor melts down at the nuclear power plant, the girls are evacuated to Leningrad to live with Valentina’s grandmother. As the girls begin to learn the older woman’s story, about events from 1941, they are taught lessons about trust and the transformational power of friendship.
The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, is called to testify in front of the other gods on Mount Olympus. She is there to tell the story of Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette, whose actions during the two world wars are to be judged by the immortals. Aphrodite’s story of the classical pianist from London, the British architectural student who becomes a soldier, the Harlem-born musical genius who enlists, and the Belgian orphan with the beautiful voice reveals a history of drama and emotional truths.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is the story of three astonishing women whose fates converge during World War II. Readers have adored its portrayal of female friendship and bravery. For those who are looking for similar reads in which women test the bonds of friendship and the limits of courage, Read it Forward has got you covered.
Both World War I and World War II provide the historical backdrop to many of these books, and their settings range from Missouri to Moscow and from Leningrad to London and points in-between. In each of these stories, women who consider themselves ordinary are called to do extraordinary things that they must keep secret. And whether it’s saving lives or preserving their families, each of the women are tested in ways they could not anticipate.
Featured image: Kevon Nicholas