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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is an unforgettable historical fiction novel about the experience of two sisters in France during World War II.
It blends two different true events in a way that gives us a new perspective on life in France throughout the early 40s.
While an older sister is forced to host a German officer in her home, her younger rebellious sister joins the resistance movement. She makes heroic efforts to help British and American soldiers who parachute into France after their planes are disabled.
When looking for books similar to The Nightingale, we were most drawn to the different stories of women’s vital roles and experiences during this tragic time. If you like these stories, you may also like the books on our list of historical fiction featuring WW2 resistance workers.
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by Martha Hall Kelly
The Lilac Girls is an emotionally challenging and honest look at three distinct experiences during WW2.
You'll walk through the war from 1939-1959 with a Polish girl, an NYC socialite, and a German female doctor. Their very different lives will intersect in different ways, and parts of their experiences will be permanently etched into your life.
The progression of the doctor's life from someone with big goals of being a surgeon to where she ends up is a perspective that isn't addressed often enough in WW2 books. It's a fascinating example of how millions of average, non-extremist Germans became complicit and carried out war crimes.
There are scenes at Ravensbrück that are extremely difficult to read. At points, Melissa wanted to skip them. However, the scenes were based on actual events and people (don't miss the author's note after the book). The girls and women who endured this reality are owed an understanding what happened to them.
Secrets of a Charmed Life
by Susan Meissner
In 1940s England, there was an increasing danger in London as war spread across Europe. The government developed a program to evacuate the children out of the city temporarily into foster homes. They'd be returned to their parents after the threat had passed. This true event was called Operation Pied Piper and inspired this book.
15-year-old Emmy has dreams of being a fashion designer, and shortly after receiving a huge opportunity, she's told she is moving with her much younger sister, Julia, to the Cotswolds. Emmy does not want to leave London but boards the train to protect her sister.
Their story continues to unfold as they find their foster home, and Emmy plans to escape back to London. The book also has a split timeline component, with a smaller percentage of the pages following an American student, Kendra, in the present day. She needs to interview someone who lived during the war and is connected with Isabel McFarland, who has been holding onto some big secrets for the past 7 decades.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
The author spent ten years creating this book, and the final result is a beautifully written story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
All the Light We Cannot See won the Pultizer Prize and was a National Book Award finalist, both well-deserved as he captures the effects of war on two children with vivid details. Fans of literary fiction will be drawn to the writing in this one.
by Jennifer Robson
The Gown takes us inside the workrooms of the famed fashion house of Norman Harnell, where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created for Princess Elizabeth. Here we meet Ann and Miriam, two embroiderers.
Seventy years later, Heather seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers left behind by her late grandmother, who never spoke of her life in Britain.
This is the first book Melissa has read that focuses on the years right AFTER World War 2. It shares a glimpse into the aftermath that lingers after bombing stops.
While the making of the gown is important to the story and fascinating, it's not what you'll remember. The story is much broader, and we think you'll love this step back into the post-war years.
The Last Correspondent
by Soraya M. Lane
Ella Franks is a journalist writing under a male pseudonym because female writers were not allowed at her paper. When her identity is discovered, she has to decide whether to give up her big dreams or take a new opportunity to travel to Europe to report on the war.
She meets Danni, a trailblazing female photographer fighting to be near the action. Danni wants to get photos from the frontlines to show those at home understand what it's like in the field.
The women begrudgingly team up after taking a risk to get to Normandy, where they end up even closer to the action than they intended.
The Things We Cannot Say
by Kelly Rimmer
The Things We Cannot Say was inspired by the author's family history. The book is about best friends who plan to marry before their Polish village falls to the invading forces. As the war progresses, Alina doesn't know if Tomasz is still alive.
Decades later, her granddaughter Alice is struggling to support her son, who was born with an autism spectrum disorder. When her grandmother is hospitalized, she begs Alice to return to Poland to see what became of those she loved.
The split storyline between current times and the war is a nice reprieve from the harder 1940s scenes.
If you're looking for more authors like Kristen Hannah, we recommend trying Kelly Rimmer!
The Beantown Girls
by Jane Healey
Like Isabelle in The Nightingale, the women in The Beantown Girls are entrenched closer to the action than most women in World War II. This historical fiction novel is based on the real Red Cross Clubmobile girls, who delivered donuts, coffee, and mail to the troops near the front lines.
Fiona had plans to marry her fiance when he returned from WWII and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when he is reported missing in Germany, her dreams are shattered. Determined to learn his fate, Fiona volunteers as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, and convinces her two best friends to join her.
The book follows the trio from training throughout their service in the war. You'll fall in love with them and the soldiers they encounter.
The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn
Two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
Angela and Melissa both rated this book 4 out of 5 stars. We found the story of the WWI Alice Network fascinating and enjoyed the writing style that intertwined the stories of the two women. Unlike many other stories told from two perspectives in two different time periods, Angela liked that the two female protagonists were together in the later period, which added another layer to the story.
by Kristin Hannah
Like the sisters in The Nightingale, Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. When they return to their home in war-torn Leningrad to care for their ill father, they're forced together with each other and their difficult mother.
The beautifully written book alternates between the past and the present. Angela's read this one and rated it 5 stars!
The Baker's Secret
by Stephen P. Kiernan
The food scarcity in The Nightingale will always stick with Melissa, so she can't wait to read The Baker's Secret. Emma is a 22-year old baker in France who has to take over the bakery after her Jewish mentor is removed from his shop.
She risks her life to ensure as many villagers as possible have bread and other food, which helps restore their hope and meet their physical needs.
Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I
by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Evie Elliott is a privileged British teenager during WWI. In 1914, her brother and his best friend were sent to fight on the front lines. Evie becomes increasingly dedicated to figuring out a way she can play a role as the war continues much longer than they initially expected.
The book is written in the form of letters back and forth between the characters, including Evie, her best friend, her brother, and his best friend. The epistolary perfectly tells the story of a growing relationship during war, but the book is more than a romance novel.
While Christmas is in the title, it's definitely a book that can be enjoyed year-round.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living in Germany in 1939. While trying to avoid all the devastation around her, she learns to read and begins stealing books. Soon, she's sharing the books with neighbors and the Jewish man hidden in their basement.
It's a heart-breaking read like so many others that cover this subject, but the Book Thief also underscores the vast power of books to help you through a terrible time.
Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
Two best friends - a female pilot and a female spy - are flying over occupied France in 1943 when their plane crashes.
When the Gestapo arrests "Verity," she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
by Jennifer Chiaverini
When Mildred Fish from Wisconsin married a German economist, they couldn't predict what would happen in Germany when they moved back to his homeland in the early 1930s.
As Hilter's party rises to power, they commit to gathering intelligence and developing a network of women dedicated to stopping the regime.
This book is based on true events and a great look at ordinary people doing extraordinary things to stop evil.
Daughter of the Reich
by Louise Fein
Daughter of the Reich centers on Hetty Heinrich, the dutiful daughter of a high-ranking officer. She's ready to play her part in the Thousand Year Reich.
Everything changes for Hetty when she runs into Walter, a Jewish friend from the past. Soon, Hetty realizes she is being watched. As anti-Semitism rises to play a leading role in the regime, can their love survive the growing hatred surrounding them?
In a Field of Blue
by Gemma Liviero
While the cover of this book looks serene, it's full of twists and turns as a family tries to pull together after WWI.
Four years after Rudy lost his eldest brother, a British soldier, to the battlefields of France, Rudy's family is still torn apart by grief and secrets in the aftermath of WWI. When Mariette arrives claiming to be Edgar's widow, and the mother of his child, Rudy urges her to stay in hopes that she'll shed light on unanswered questions. But Mariette's revelations lead to more questions than answers, and suspicions threaten to further divide Rudy's family. So Rudy sets out on a quest for the truth that takes him from England to France and beyond.
Melissa found the plot slow in some points, but as soon as she considered setting it down, something dramatic would happen, and she could wait to keep reading.
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Women's History Month Books to Read in 2022: Non-fiction - Book Girls' Guide
Wednesday 2nd of March 2022
[…] set in different decades or books set around the world. Additionally, our Books Like City of Girls, Books for Fans of the Nightingale, and WW2 Resistance Worker book recommendations are especially heavy on amazing woman […]
Thursday 24th of February 2022
I loved The Nightingale, The Book Thief (which I bought…rare for me), Winter Garden (stunning revelation), and All the Light We Cannot See (heartbreaking). I look forward to reading many of the other books on this list. Do you have a similar list for those of us who loved The Night Circus? Never knew magical realism was a genre.
Wednesday 9th of February 2022
Just joined! I had already read 2 of them before I got the list. Absolutely loved The Nightingale. I also read The Things We Can Not say. I have read a few books by Kelly Rimmer and really enjoyed them!
I’m so glad I have found this list Thank you
Sunday 23rd of May 2021
Just what I needed. I was heart-broken after I finished the Nightingale and was looking for another book just as good.
Books Set in Western Europe - Book Girls' Guide
Monday 8th of March 2021
[…] find some great options on these lists: Books Set in the 1910s, Books Set in the 1940s, and Books Like the Nightingale.Throughout the list, we noted those book currently available as part of the Kindle Unlimited […]