The best books about acts of resistance in WW2

Who am I?

As a child I grew up listening to my Dutch mother’s stories of life under German occupation and her family’s struggle for survival during the Hunger Winter. Life was hard but exciting for a teenager who thought nothing of delivering anti-Nazi leaflets, chopping down lime trees in front of the house for firewood, and evading the Germans on her ancient bike in her quest for food. It was this unwavering spirit that I wanted to capture in the four novels I’ve written set in wartime Holland. She was the inspiration behind my latest World War 2 novel, The Boy in the Attic.


I wrote...

The Boy in the Attic

By Imogen Matthews,

Book cover of The Boy in the Attic

What is my book about?

Holland, 1945. Ilse is only just surviving the terrible famine and violent German occupation. She takes up a position as a nurse far from home at a hospital in the grounds of her friend Connie’s house. When Ilse discovers a young Jewish man in hiding in the tiny attic room, Ilse must decide whether to keep him concealed or risk almost certain death. 

London 2001. When Anna’s father unexpectedly dies, he leaves behind a bent silver sixpence on a delicate silver chain holding the clue to a devastating family secret. Among his possessions, Anna finds a ticket to the Dutch town where he was born and a note revealing who his parents were. Anna sets out on a quest to discover their wartime fate.

The books I picked & why

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Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins-And WWII Heroes

By Tim Brady,

Book cover of Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins-And WWII Heroes

Why this book?

I’m always looking out for good books about the Dutch resistance and this did not disappoint. 

I was riveted by this true story of three Dutch teenage girls who joined a resistance group in Haarlem in order to take action against the Nazis and collaborators. What makes this story so compelling is that so few women were involved in active resistance in World War 2, let alone any so young. Not only were they unafraid to use weapons against the enemy, but sabotaged bridges and railways and helped Jewish people, including children, to find safe hiding places. This book reads like a novel in its breath-taking descriptions of these three girls’ fearless acts. 

Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins-And WWII Heroes

By Tim Brady,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Ordinary Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“The book's teenage protagonists and their bravery will enthrall young adults, who may find themselves inspired to take up their own causes.” —Washington Post

An astonishing World War II story of a trio of fearless female resisters whose youth and innocence belied their extraordinary daring in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. It also made them the underground’s most invaluable commodity.

May 10, 1940. The Netherlands was swarming with Third Reich troops. In seven days it’s entirely occupied by Nazi Germany. Joining a small resistance cell in the Dutch city of Haarlem were three teenage girls: Hannie Schaft, and sisters Truus and Freddie…

Resistance

By Anita Shreve,

Book cover of Resistance

Why this book?

I love Anita Shreve’s writing style, which is spare and yet conveys so much emotion. Resistance is set during World War 2 in occupied Belgium and tells the story of a downed US air force pilot who is found by a young boy, the son of a Nazi collaborator, before being taken in by a couple who hides him in the attic before he can be discovered by the Germans. This atmospheric story is about love and betrayal, but so powerfully portrays the atrocities of war. 

Resistance

By Anita Shreve,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The wife of a Resistance worker in Nazi-occupied Belgium falls in love with a wounded American pilot, forcing her to struggle with trust and betrayal. The wounded pilot becomes the pivot of the young housewife's life and their love affair causes repercussions throughout the small town.

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah,

Book cover of The Nightingale

Why this book?

So often women’s stories of resistance during World War 2 are overlooked, which makes this story all the more interesting. Through the two French sisters, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac, the reader experiences what it was like to be a woman during war: one sister joins the resistance, while the other looks after her daughter and is in constant fear of Nazis in her home. Hannah draws the reader to her characters who are believable and realistic. 

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…


Beneath a Scarlet Sky

By Mark Sullivan,

Book cover of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Why this book?

I was gripped by this story of an Italian teenager who uses his knowledge of the mountains to help Jews escape over the Italian Alps to Switzerland and eventually works for the resistance after joining the German Army. It is a good example of historical fiction, based on real people and events and brought to life through Sullivan’s excellent writing. 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

By Mark Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Beneath a Scarlet Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major television event from Pascal Pictures, starring Tom Holland.

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, the USA Today and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man's incredible courage and resilience during one of history's darkest hours.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He's a normal Italian teenager-obsessed with music, food, and girls-but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape…

The Gustav Sonata

By Rose Tremain,

Book cover of The Gustav Sonata

Why this book?

The Gustav Sonata started out as a short story called "A Game of Cards". Long after it appeared, Tremain felt she had wasted a very promising core idea on something essentially too short and too unexamined. The story and novel are set in Switzerland, which seemed safe as a neutral country during World War 2, but the government was torn between compassion for German Jewish refugees and the fear of devastating German reprisals if they took them in. Tremain tackles this dilemma through the stoical character of Gustav, who is Jewish and explores the ambiguities in the relationship between Gustav and his friend Anton, a gifted pianist who is crippled by stage fright. I found the themes sensitively and beautifully described.   

The Gustav Sonata

By Rose Tremain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gustav Sonata as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem only a distant echo. An only child, he lives alone with Emilie, the mother he adores but who treats him with bitter severity. He begins an intense friendship with a Jewish boy his age, talented and mercurial Anton Zweibel, a budding concert pianist. The novel follows Gustav's family, tracing the roots of his mother's anti-Semitism and its impact on her son and his beloved friend. Moving backward to the war years and the painful repercussions of an act of conscience, and…


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