The Best Books About Women In The Second World War

The Books I Picked & Why

The Bronze Horseman

By Paullina Simons

The Bronze Horseman

Why 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.


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

By Sonia Purnell

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

Why 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.


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The Codebreakers

By Alli Sinclair

The Codebreakers

Why 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. 


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

By Bruce Myles

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

Why 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.


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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Why 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.


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