The best books about women in the Second World War

Who am I?

Belinda Alexandra is the author of nine bestselling historical fiction novels and a non-fiction book about the history of women and cats. The daughter of a Russian mother and an Australian father, Belinda has been fascinated by world history and culture since her youth. Having had grandparents whose lives had been turned upside by revolutions and wars, she is deeply interested in how global events affect the course of ordinary people’s lives.

I wrote...

Tuscan Rose

By Belinda Alexandra,

Book cover of Tuscan Rose

What is my book about?

From an internationally bestselling author comes a richly woven tale of passion, longing, witchcraft, and magic set in Italy during World War II. 

Florence, 1914. A mysterious stranger known as The Wolf leaves an infant with the sisters of Santo Spirito. A tiny silver key hidden in her wrappings is the one clue to the child’s identity... fifteen years later, young Rosa must leave the nuns, her only family, and become a governess to the daughter of an aristocrat and his strange, frightening wife. Their house is elegant but cursed, and Rosa—blessed with gifts beyond her considerable musical talents—is torn between her desire to know the truth and her fear of its repercussions. All the while, the hand of Fascism curls around beautiful Italy, and no citizen is safe. Rosa faces unimaginable hardship: her only weapons her intelligence, intuition, and determination . . . and her extraordinary capacity for love.

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The books I picked & why

The Bronze Horseman

By Paullina Simons,

Book cover of The Bronze Horseman

Why did I love this book?

I had been a fan of Paullina Simons’ contemporary fiction since my university days, but this sweeping historical fiction novel took my breath away. It depicts the life of an ordinary young Russian woman who, along with her family, becomes caught up in the 900 day Siege of Leningrad by German forces during the Second World War – a human tragedy of epic proportions. A love story at heart, The Bronze Horseman, brings to life in vivid detail how a simple life can be up-ended by world events. Paullina Simon’s family background is Russian, and I could feel her soul aching for her birth country, which still bears the scars of the Second World War today.

By Paullina Simons,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Bronze Horseman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magnificent epic of love, war and Russia from the international bestselling author of TULLY and ROAD TO PARADISE

Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose palaces and avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg.

Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents.

The routine of their hard impoverished life is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanov family, for Leningrad and particularly for Tatiana, life will never be the same again.…

Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Why did I love this book?

It is a passion of mine to read the biographies of outstanding people. This one reads like a thriller. After a shooting accident resulted in the loss of her leg, Virginia Hall felt that she had cheated death for a higher purpose. She found that purpose during the Second World War when she became the first female British SOE agent sent into France. Her intelligence work was so vital to the Allies – and so dangerous to the Germans – that it is believed to have changed the course of the war. Virginia was a proud, confident and highly capable personality. She proved it with daring feats, including successfully infiltrating the Vichy High Command, rescuing Allied soldiers from prisons, and crossing the dangerous Pyrenees Mountains in the thick of winter with a less than co-operative wooden leg. This is an exciting and inspiring story that is hard to put down.

By Sonia Purnell,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

"Excellent...This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR


The Codebreakers

By Alli Sinclair,

Book cover of The Codebreakers

Why did I love this book?

The Codebreakers is based on real events and tells the little-known story of the young Australian women who worked with Central Bureau in Brisbane, during the Second World War. Ellie O’Sullivan is recruited from her aviation engineering job to decipher enemy communications. It quickly becomes evident that what happens on the home front – especially in intelligence services – is as important in deciding the outcome of the conflict as are soldiers, aeroplanes, and tanks. If Ellie misses an important code, it could cost thousands of Allied lives. What struck me most about Ellie and her colleagues was how young they were to have such a responsibility on their shoulders. They could never talk about their work and, even when experiencing the most heartbreaking grief at the loss of their own menfolk, they had to hold their nerves and carry on. Alli Sinclair tells this tale with such deep affection for the characters you can’t help but feel involved. I highly recommend it if you want to find out about an interesting part of Australian history and be delightfully entertained along the way. 

By Alli Sinclair,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They will dedicate their lives to their country, but no one will ever know...

A compelling story about tenacity and friendship, inspired by the real codebreaking women of Australia's top-secret Central Bureau in WWII. For readers who love Judy Nunn and Kate Quinn.

1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O'Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau - an intelligence organisation working…

Book cover of Night Witches: The Amazing Story of Russia's Women Pilots in WWII

Why did I love this book?

After seeing a documentary on the History Channel about the female soviet air regiments that were created by aviation heroine and former opera singer, Marina Raskova, in response to the German attack on Russia during the Second World War, I wanted to know more. Bruce Myles describes the varied personalities and challenges faced by these proud, capable, and extremely young airwomen and their all-female ground crew. He tells how the women were not taken seriously at first by the military command and were provided with outdated wooden biplanes that were nothing more than crop-dusters. But the women pilots and navigators used the planes to deadly effect. They would fly at night, cutting the engine and gliding in silently over enemy targets, terrifying the German army with their tactics and earning themselves the title of ‘Night Witches’. I was so inspired by Bruce Myles’ account of the women’s air regiments, that I wrote my own novel about this fascinating period in Russian history, Sapphire Skies.

By Bruce Myles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1941 as the Nazi hordes swept eastward into the Soviet Union, the desperate call went out for women to join the Russian air force. Women responded and flew incessant bombing runs; the Germans, who came to dread them, called them 'night witches'.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart,

Book cover of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Why did I love this book?

I first read this diary of a Jewish girl and her family hiding from the Gestapo in Holland during the Holocaust when I was in high school. I believe everyone should read it at least once, as it’s an important and powerful reminder of the horror of war inflicted on an innocent girl and her family. While she lives with the ever-present threat of discovery and its dire consequences, Anne manages to make keen and witty observations about her unusual situation and the people around her. Anne wanted to be a writer, but unfortunately perished in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp along with other members of her family and community. Her father, Otto Frank, was the family’s only survivor. He published Anne’s diary after the war. Although Anne Frank never got to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer, her diary has lived on through the ages and has been published in more than 70 languages.

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Anne Frank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With 30 per cent more material than previous editions, this new contemporary and fully anglicized translation gives the reader a deeper insight into Anne's world. Publication of the unabridged Definitive Edition on Penguin Audiobook, read by Helena Bonham-Carter, coincides.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in World War 2, France, and the Siege of Leningrad?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about World War 2, France, and the Siege of Leningrad.

World War 2 Explore 1,535 books about World War 2
France Explore 776 books about France
The Siege Of Leningrad Explore 9 books about the Siege of Leningrad

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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