The best World War Two novels with strong female characters who aren’t spies

Elisa M. Speranza Author Of The Italian Prisoner
By Elisa M. Speranza

The Books I Picked & Why

Sisters in Arms

By Kaia Alderson

Book cover of Sisters in Arms

Why this book?

Kaia Alderson brings us a compelling story featuring strong female characters, complex friendships, family, love, and resilience. Her fierce young heroines blaze a trail in a world they are thrown into with little preparation, against the strong headwinds of discrimination. Alderson's witty dialogue and thoughtful prose carries the story through many poignant moments. The story of Six Triple Eight and the fascinating lives of these brave, unsung she-roes who accomplished a critical mission in the waning days of World War Two deserves a much bigger audience.

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A Kiss from Maddalena

By Christopher Castellani

Book cover of A Kiss from Maddalena

Why this book?

Castellani’s warm and beautiful prose takes us on a journey with Maddelana, an innocent young woman in a tiny Italian village where everyone knows everyone. As she embarks on a journey that will change her life, we watch her future unfold across the ocean and through generations of the family she starts, immigrant descendants making a life in America. The best part is there are two more books following this one! 

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The Beantown Girls

By Jane Healey

Book cover of The Beantown Girls

Why this book?

I love historical fiction that teaches us about little-known chapters in history—especially stories of unsung women in wartime. Beantown Girls delivers all that along with love, laughter, friendship, and tears. It’s the fascinating tale of the women who brought aid and comfort to Allied soldiers in World War Two with the Red Cross Clubmobiles.

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Manhattan Beach

By Jennifer Egan

Book cover of Manhattan Beach

Why this book?

Mystery, intrigue, and an exploration of the dark underbelly of a community kept me turning the pages of Manhattan Beach. There aren’t many books written from the point of view of a woman working in a man’s world on the World War Two home front, and Egan paints an intimate portrait that puts the reader inside her protagonist’s head from the first page. A fascinating, detailed account wrapped in a compelling narrative.

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The Last Year of the War

By Susan Meissner

Book cover of The Last Year of the War

Why this book?

Meissner is a master of balance, and this book does a beautiful job. A gut-wrenching story of discrimination, injustice, deprivation, and war woven into a story of childhood friends found in the unlikeliest of circumstances. We learn important lessons about historic mistakes, see the brutal face of war, and crawl inside family dynamics that leave a mark on our hearts. 

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