Heather Morris Recommends Books Set During World War II

Posted by Cybil on October 1, 2019


Last year, author Heather Morris' debut novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, based on the true love story of Holocaust survivors who found love amid the horror of life in a concentration camp, was embraced be readers across the globe.

This fall she's back with her followup to that book, Cilka's Journey, about a beautiful teenager who survives terrible abuse at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, only to be accused of collaborating with the enemy.

Morris is sharing some of her favorite novels set during World War II. Be sure to add the books that pique your interest to your Want to Read shelf.


Growing up in rural New Zealand, as far removed from the theatre of World War II as you could get (not that I was born yet), my country was physically untouched but like other far-flung countries, not emotionally untouched.

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There were uncles I never knew but heard about who never came home. My father was in the New Zealand Infantry in the Pacific, though spoke little about it. On the 25th of April every year (ANZAC day—Australia and New Zealand’s day of remembrance), I marched in my Girl’s Brigade uniform through our small town to the memorial every town in New Zealand had honoring the dead.

With adults reluctant to speak about the events and the education system telling me only what they determined I needed to know, I sought out books, memoirs, biographies, and—when they came along—historical fiction accounts of that period in history.

I have chosen the following historical fiction stories written about and around World War II to share my thoughts and recommendations on. They have not been chosen because they all have female authors—this is purely coincidence.



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Love, courage, hope for survival and for a world without conflict. Two sisters facing the same threat—one wanting the simple life, the other wanting to run head-long into the threat, the enemy—take up the fight. This is a story which takes your breath away in how it depicts the all-encompassing elements of war—starvation, death, concentration camps, the unrelenting physical and emotional toll that challenges the strongest of friendships and family. It features the beauty and tragedy of first love and female heroes at their best. Thank you, Kristin, for this amazing, beautiful, story.


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I was honored to be asked to read this novel and provide a comment. Something I had no difficulty doing, so much did I enjoy it. This is the true story of the Kindertransport that happened before World War II; the UK took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied countries. Beautifully written with characters I cared about, I found their bravery and vulnerability tear-producing. It is an in-your-face reminder that children need to be protected. As a mother and grandmother, it left me asking the question of myself—what would I do under these circumstances?


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This novel is soon to be released and I couldn’t put this story down. A young mother and her infant daughter are caught between doing what is considered right by the occupied citizens in Paris during World War II, and what is right to save her starving, sick child. Ellen beautifully weaves this story, time traveling between the struggle of living in Paris during the war with the mother’s new, comfortable life in New York, and how the two strain and part only to be brought back together.


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I read this story many years ago and so much of it stayed with me. A few years ago, I asked my husband could we turn our backyard into a Camomile Lawn. For the record, he said no, too difficult in hot, dry Melbourne. Mary gave me female characters of great strength and resilience surviving wartime in the UK, from the Camomile Lawn in Cornwall with the innocence of youth, to the streets of London where the world is changing. Lovers found, lovers lost, and the ties of family with their shared memories.


What historical fiction would you recommend to your fellow readers? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent articles:
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Comments Showing 1-50 of 78 (78 new)


message 1: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Kelly I recommend Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles. The characters, plot, and quality of the writing are all extraordinary.

Enemy Women


message 2: by Kim (new)

Kim Herek Beneath a Scarlet Sky. One of my favorite stories!


message 3: by Vicky (new)

Vicky Weiss For those who love suspense and are interested in WW II, one shouldn't miss James R Benn's Billy Boyle WW II mysteries. Benn, a retired librarian and World War II buff, knows his stuff, and his mysteries are an addictive read. Highly recommended


message 4: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Nolan I recommend "The nightingale" by Kirsten Hannah. Great book.


message 5: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie The Last Convertible - Anton Myrer


message 6: by Nancy L Owens (new)

Nancy L Owens 1. Not so well known The Ninety and Nine by William Brinkley Set mostly on an LST (landing ship tank) going back & forth between Naples & the beachhead at Anzio---(equipment & supplies to Anzio, wounded soldiers to Naples). I read it over 25 yrs ago & still remember it.
2. 2 big books by a FAMOUS author & made into a big miniseries: The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. Fairly long books you can live in. And, BTW Robert Mitchum was too tall to play Pug Henry.


message 7: by Grace (new)

Grace Kirkland I definitely recommend The Alice Network and The Huntress both by Kate Quinn. Both are set post WWII, but weave tales of people trying to find loved ones and redemption and revenge after a brutal war that few spoke of during those times.


message 8: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Epps How could you not recommend All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr? I don’t even care for historical novels but that one!


message 9: by flyfishinglady (last edited Oct 15, 2019 07:15AM) (new)

flyfishinglady The Zion covenant series 8-9 books by Bodie Thoene lots of WWII history here historical fiction Also, Karolina’s Twins by Ronald Balson


message 10: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale are two of my favorites.


message 11: by Helen (last edited Oct 15, 2019 08:28AM) (new)

Helen Being a fan of WWII novels, I would add The Invisible Bridge, We Were, the Lucky Ones, The Orphan's Tale, and, of course, The Book Thief. It was an event in WWII that prompted the writing of my first book, The Last Frontier of the Fading West.


message 12: by Britta (new)

Britta J. Michelle wrote: "How could you not recommend All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr? I don’t even care for historical novels but that one!"
I am reading this now. Very compelling.


message 13: by Claire (new)

Claire I really enjoyed Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff (and most of her other WWII based books), The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and Clare's War by Anita Burgh (even if some bits of it are not entirely believable!)


message 14: by Jim (new)

Jim Ahearn " The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society " by Mary Ann Shaffer and " The Postmistress " by Sarah Blake .


message 15: by Jan (new)

Jan  Chiles With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge


message 16: by Jan (new)

Jan  Chiles With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge


message 17: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Glase The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly was one of my latest favorites. Learned about a part of WWII history I knew nothing about - the medical experiments Nazi Germany performed on prisoners. Heartbreaking and horrifying.


message 18: by Jacqui (new)

Jacqui Gauld Gone To Soldiers by Marge Piercy, The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, Restless by William Boyd are a few of my favourite books about WW11. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer is non-fiction and brilliant. I also love Alan Furst's books dealing with espionage before and during WW11.


message 19: by Violet (new)

Violet We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. Oh wow. Based on the author's true family history, it is an amazing story of survival in the face of ridiculously overwhelming odds. A couple of times, I had to put the book down, because I couldn't bear to read on - imagining that tragedy must to be on the next page. I found myself crying with joy and relief right along with the characters. One of the best ww2 stories I've ever read, and that's my favourite genre.


message 20: by Carol (new)

Carol The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas by John Boyne. It is short but oh so memorable


message 21: by Shadow (new)

Shadow I think that Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein are the best WW2 fiction for teens and adults, while Stolen Child, Making Bombs For Hitler, Underground Soldier and Don't Tell The Enemy all by Marsha Skyrupch are the best for per-teens


message 22: by Savannah (new)

Savannah The War that Saved my Life and The War I Finally Won (both by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley) are incredibly great.


message 23: by Savannah (new)

Savannah Violet wrote: "We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. Oh wow. Based on the author's true family history, it is an amazing story of survival in the face of ridiculously overwhelming odds. A couple of times, I h..."

It was incredibly told


message 24: by Monica (new)

Monica Blum how about a few on the war in the Pacific? for for a sweet take on Australia, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute; for a more hard boiled bunch by James Michener, Tales of the South Pacific; both of these were made into movies, as was The Bridge on the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle, and "Alice" was also a mini series

these are all older books, a bit old-fashioned, but lovely to read


message 25: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne An outstanding book by Leon Uris, QB VII is a novel that I highly recommend.


message 26: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Sand Two 5-star novels: News of the World by Paulette Jiles and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.


message 27: by SUBRATA (new)

SUBRATA DATTA Talking about historical fiction, not just those about World War II.

For the lovers of Mughal period of Indian history, I would recommend the six-book series Empire of the Moghul written by the husband-wife duo of Diana and Michael Preston under the pen name Alex Rutherford.

Six books dealing with one of the six Great Mughals each.

Raiders from the North (Babur), Brothers at War (Humayun), Ruler of the World (Akbar), The Tainted Throne (Jahangir), The Serpent’s Tooth (Shah Jahan) and Traitors in the Shadows (Aurangzeb).

In the current political situation of India, the 1000-year Muslim rule of the country, especially the Mughal period (1526 to 1857), is the subject of heated debate – with left-leaning historians pitted against the Right-wingers.

But there is no denying that Islamic rule, especially that of the Mughals, had a civilizational impact on the 5,000-year-old history of India.

Rutherford’s series is an enjoyable read.


message 28: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Kim wrote: "Beneath a Scarlet Sky. One of my favorite stories!"
I second that! That is hands down the best book I've read this year! Love love loved it.


message 29: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Michelle wrote: "How could you not recommend All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr? I don’t even care for historical novels but that one!"
Agreed! That is one of my favorite books! So beautiful and wonderful.


message 30: by Denise (new)

Denise Joel C. Rosenberg’s The Auschwitz Escape


message 31: by Denise (new)

Denise Also, We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter was very good


message 32: by Baruni (new)

Baruni I recommend Once We Were Brotjers by Ronald H Balson and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


message 33: by Bella (new)

Bella Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese


message 34: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Barr All the Light We Cannot See, The Huntress and The Nightingale are among my favorites.


message 35: by Linda (new)

Linda I highly highly recommend We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter


message 37: by KOMET (last edited Oct 23, 2019 09:11AM) (new)

KOMET I would highly recommend the first 4 novels of the 'Cazalet Chronicles Series' by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014) which are set in the UK from 1937 to 1946.

1) The Light Years

The Light Years (Cazalet Chronicles, #1) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

2) Marking Time

Marking Time (Cazalet Chronicles, #2) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

3) Confusion

Confusion (Cazalet Chronicles, #3) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

4) Casting Off

Casting Off (Cazalet Chronicles, #4) by Elizabeth Jane Howard


message 38: by Feliks (last edited Oct 23, 2019 05:37AM) (new)

Feliks I don't see any classics in this list. It's ridiculous. How can anyone assess a world war --or it's subsequent literature --and leave out any books written by the people who lived through it?


message 39: by Elyse (last edited Oct 23, 2019 06:11AM) (new)

Elyse Heather Morris is incredibly disappointing. https://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/...


message 40: by Jim (new)

Jim Sad that the horrors of WWII still hold such fascination for fiction writers. I prefer non-fiction or survivor accounts, as I think something as terrible as war needn't be softened up or romanticized. Sure, some decent people did some decent things during the war years, but for the most part it was awful and horrific and nasty and brutal. All of it. And seemingly we have still learned nothing about treating humans with respect, even after all that death and destruction. Sad.


message 41: by Nora (new)

Nora Kim wrote: "Beneath a Scarlet Sky. One of my favorite stories!"Who is the author? I see several books with the same title from different authors :)


message 42: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Nora wrote: "Kim wrote: "Beneath a Scarlet Sky. One of my favorite stories!"Who is the author? I see several books with the same title from different authors :)"

Beneath a Scarlet Sky


message 43: by Kim (new)

Kim Savannah wrote: "The War that Saved my Life and The War I Finally Won (both by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley) are incredibly great."

So glad you mentioned these, Savannah. I've read both of them twice and will probably read them again. Great stories!


message 44: by Geoffrey (last edited Oct 23, 2019 09:30AM) (new)

Geoffrey Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You wrote: "Sad that the horrors of WWII still hold such fascination for fiction writers. I prefer non-fiction or survivor accounts, as I think something as terrible as war needn't be softened up or romanticiz..."
I for one am writing fiction about the Second World War, not to soften or romanticize it, but simply to try tu understand it. That war still has huge impacts on contemporary life. Writing fiction is an important part of delving into what happened and its consequences. So yes, non fiction and survivors' stories, but we need fiction to speak for those who didn't survive in other ways, too!

Thanks to Cybil for starting this discussion and list going, I am going to be reading some of these recommendations.


message 45: by Vivienne (new)

Vivienne Warlight by Michael Ondaatje


message 46: by KOMET (new)

KOMET I highly recommend 'The Cruel Sea' by Nicholas Monsarrat.

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

It tells a very poignant story of a crew of a Royal Navy warship seeing action in the North Atlantic and in the waters above the Arctic Circle (as part of the Allied convoys shipping supplies to the Soviet Union to help keep it in the war).


message 47: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Morris recommended her own book. Odd. I didn't like Tattooist either as I found it insulting to Jewish people.


message 48: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Fusco A few to recommend Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini, The Nazi Officers Wife by Edith Hahn Beer, The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simmons (additional books in the series), Winter of the World by Ken Follett.


message 49: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Sharon wrote: "A few to recommend Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini, The Nazi Officers Wife by Edith Hahn Beer, The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simmons (additional books in the series), Winter of the World b..."

I also liked The Nazi Officers Wife.


message 50: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Fusco Ankit wrote: "The Book Thief
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Sarah's Key
Suite Française"


I really liked the Suite Francaise.


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