The best books about hard times and resilience in the World War II era

Irene Wittig Author Of All That Lingers
By Irene Wittig

The Books I Picked & Why

All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Why this book?

I loved this book and had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Doerr speak about it. It is beautifully written, filled not only with all the sorrow of war but also with moments of true kindness and compassion. Set in World War II it encompasses all aspects of what defines good and evil, courage and cowardice, sorrow and joy.


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Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

By Sarah Wildman

Book cover of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

Why this book?

A poignant, well-written and deeply researched non-fiction story of the author’s search for the girlfriend her grandfather had left behind in Vienna. As my family left Vienna because of the Nazi regime, and my own novel takes place in Vienna, I found Ms. Wildman’s book especially meaningful, raising the question not only of what had happened to the woman but also of how much guilt and responsibility the grandfather carried?


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Exile Music: A Novel

By Jennifer Steil

Book cover of Exile Music: A Novel

Why this book?

A well-written novel about a Jewish family from Vienna who escapes the Nazi regime and finds refuge in Bolivia. In a world so different from their own, the parents long for the music and culture they left behind, while their young daughter finds joy in the differences and in the people she meets. A lesson for all of us who face life-changing changes.


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Mother's Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times

By Richard L. Hermann

Book cover of Mother's Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times

Why this book?

This biography of the author’s mother and role model is as much a portrait of an intelligent, cultured, resilient woman as it is a well-researched history of the hundred-and-one years she lived through. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna she lived through World War I, post-war depression, antisemitism, and the violent rise of Nazism. With courage and determination she found a way to escape the worst horrors of the Holocaust (although many in her family did not) and faced the challenges of building a new life in a new culture.


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Life After Life

By Kate Atkinson

Book cover of Life After Life

Why this book?

A brilliant novel that shows in what directions one life can go — whether by choice or circumstance. In one life she dies as an infant; in others she grows into adulthood, faced with challenges. Her choices can change not only her life, but that of the world. Ms. Atkinson’s description of the Blitz has no match. An unforgettable novel.


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