The best novels about human relations in the altered reality of wartime

Who am I?

The writing of Mad Hatter (my 7th book), was fueled by curiosity about WW2 and about my absent father. I emigrated to Canada as a young woman and pursued a career in the Arts – theatre, painting, writing. But only when I embarked on this fictionalized family story did I begin to uncover shocking family secrets as I pulled together threads of childhood memory, woven in with research material, trying to make sense of it all. Writing has literally saved my life, and Mad Hatter has liberated me in a manner I could never have predicted. I am an intense, passionate workaholic, writing in many genres, exulting in life's surprises!


I wrote...

Mad Hatter, Volume 164

By Amanda Hale,

Book cover of Mad Hatter, Volume 164

What is my book about?

Mad Hatter is a WW2 novel, based on the story of my own father’s internment as a member of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. During Christopher Brooke’s absence, his family manages with the help of Maire Byrne, a young girl fresh from Ireland who works for Cynthia Brooke as nanny to her four young children, bringing love and levity into their childhood. Upon Christopher’s release there is a gradual unravelling of the marriage in the devastation of post-war England. As the story of the Brooke family moves inexorably to a tragic conclusion, a series of mysterious events unfold in which Maire Byrne is once again embraced by the family, but in a most surprising manner.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of After the Party

Amanda Hale Why did I love this book?

As the daughter of a wartime internee, I was particularly affected by this novel. It is 1938, and socialite Phyllis Forrester is unaware that her family life is soon to be destroyed by circumstance. A privileged wife and mother, Phyllis is politically naïve. There are subtle hints of the darkness to come as she, along with her kin, becomes increasingly involved with Oswald Mosley’s political party. When war breaks out and Phyllis is interned, she endures her downfall and imprisonment with equanimity. The book carries a quiet, sad sense of regret as she tries and fails to pick up the post-war threads of her former life. There is no going back.

By Cressida Connolly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'I always wanted to be friends with both my sisters. Perhaps that was the source, really, of all the troubles of my life...'

It is the summer of 1938 and Phyllis Forrester has returned to England after years abroad. Moving into her sister's grand country house, she soon finds herself entangled in a new world of idealistic beliefs and seemingly innocent friendships. Fevered talk of another war infiltrates their small, privileged circle, giving way to a thrilling solution: a great and charismatic leader, who will restore England to its former glory.

At a party hosted by her new friends, Phyllis…


Book cover of The Secret Purposes

Amanda Hale Why did I love this book?

Jewish internment in Britain is a little-known aspect of WW2. Baddiel based this novel on his grandfather's experience as a German-Jewish refugee to Britain, fleeing Nazi persecution. It is an ironic story of a man interned on the Isle of Man as an “enemy alien,” when war breaks out. Baddiel’s excellent story-telling led me to write a scene in my own family-inspired novel; between a character based on my father, also interned on the Isle of Man, and a Jewish refugee he encounters in the camp. They meet in the potato fields and, after some bristling, form a bond.

By David Baddiel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE SECRET PURPOSES, David Baddiel's third novel, takes us into a little-known and still somewhat submerged area of British history: the internment of German Jewish refugees on the Isle of Man during the Second World War. Isaac Fabian, on the run with his young family from Nazism in East Prussia, comes to Britain assuming he has found asylum, but instead finds himself drowning in the morass of ignorance, half-truth, prejudice, and suspicion that makes up government attitudes to German Jews in 1940. One woman, June Murray, a translator from the Ministry of Information, stands out - and when she comes…


Book cover of Warlight

Amanda Hale Why did I love this book?

Since my own novel is set partly in post-war England, I was drawn to Ondaatje’s Warlight, which begins in 1945 London as the city is recovering from brutal bombing. Another hook for me was the youthful characters; my book is also populated with war-confused children. Ondaatje’s narrator, 14-year-old Nathaniel, recalls his youth with the benefit of adult wisdom. He and his sister Rachel are abandoned by their parents to the care of some eccentric and slightly dangerous characters. Their teen years are marked by many mysterious events and experiences, only beginning to clarify in retrospect. Do we ever know what’s really happening?

By Michael Ondaatje,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Warlight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018**

An elegiac novel set in post-WW2 London about memory, family secrets and lies, from the internationally acclaimed author of The English Patient

It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women all who seem determined to protect Rachel and Nathaniel.…


Book cover of Noonday

Amanda Hale Why did I love this book?

An accumulation of memories haunt and inform Noonday, a novel that stands alone as the third in a trilogy spanning both world wars. I particularly love Barker’s avoidance of sentimentality. She is an honest writer who digs deep and gives no easy solutions as she follows a cast of characters who originally met as students at the Slade School of Art in London. Elinor, who is central, still suffers from the death of her brother Toby in the Great War. Barker’s skillful evocation of the past gives weight and resonance to every word, reminding the reader of the increasing complexity of character formation with life’s most intense and sometimes tragic experiences. 

By Pat Barker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new novel from the Booker Prize winning Pat Barker, author of the Regeneration Trilogy, that unforgettably portrays London during the Blitz (her first portrayal of World War II) and reconfirms her place in the very top rank of British novelists.

London, the Blitz, Autumn 1940. As the bombs fall on the blacked-out city, ambulance driver Elinor Brooke races from bomb sites to hospitals trying to save the lives of injured survivors, working alongside former friend Kit Neville, while her husband Paul Tarrant works as an air-raide warden.
     Once fellow students at the Slade School of Fine Art before the…


Book cover of The Remains of the Day

Amanda Hale Why did I love this book?

This novel devastated me upon first reading as I recognized the dangers of political naivete as a fatal flaw, and the extent of such naivete in Britain until Churchill came to power. The novel is set in the era of prewar “appeasement.” Stevens is butler to Lord Darlington, to whom he is unquestioningly loyal. Only in retrospect does Stevens realize that his employer was a Nazi sympathizer, and that he has wasted his life in service to such a man, to the extent that he fails to marry the woman he loves, and is absent from his father’s bedside as he dies. His ignorance and misplaced loyalty have trumped all. Nevertheless, he vows to live out “the remains of the day.” A brilliant evocation of shifting wartime politics.

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Remains of the Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available to preorder*

The Remains of the Day won the 1989 Booker Prize and cemented Kazuo Ishiguro's place as one of the world's greatest writers. David Lodge, chairman of the judges in 1989, said, it's "a cunningly structured and beautifully paced performance". This is a haunting evocation of lost causes and lost love, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change. Ishiguro's work has been translated into more than forty languages and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Stevens, the long-serving butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on…


You might also like...

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.

Lucy…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the upper class, war, and London?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the upper class, war, and London.

The Upper Class Explore 74 books about the upper class
War Explore 1,815 books about war
London Explore 757 books about London