Books set during World War II always fascinate me. No matter how many of them I read, I am always happy to find another new book set in that time period. Here are a few recent reads:
1. The Shell Seekers by Rosamude Pilcher– an oldie but such a goodie! This book is a LONG British family drama centered around a famous painting, The Shell Seekers. The Shell Seekers was painted by Penelope Keeling’s father, a famous painter. He gave her the painting when she married. At the beginning of the book, Penelope is in her late 60’s. Her three children, two needing money, are pressuring her to sell the painting for oodles of money.
The character development in this book is wonderful. You literally cannot stand Nancy, the eldest child and have no respect for Noel, the ne’er do well son. Olivia, the single third child, is a conundrum.
The story varies from Penelope’s present life to her childhood and her wartime experiences, including serving in the Wrens and being a wartime bride.
The book is quintessentially British with strong liquor and Aga stoves! (You can’t have a British novel with an Aga, can you?)
“Five minutes later, she was indulging in the most comfortable occupation she knew, which was to lie in a hot bath and drink cold whisky at the same time.”
A lovely read!
2. The Arrogant Years by Lucette Lagnado- This is Lagnado’s follow up book to my favorite book of 2009, Man in the White Sharkskin Suit– my review of that book is here. Her previous book was the story of her father- a dynamic Egyptian Jewish man who was forced to emigrate first to Israel and then to the United States.
Her new book, The Arrogant Years, is the story of her mother during the same time period. While her mother is not as exciting a character as her father, Lagnado’s writing and storytelling remain excellent.
In describing charitable funds in Egypty during the “good times”, she writes,
“There was even a pot of money for single women in danger of never marrying because their families couldn’t afford a dowry.”
In discussing coming to America, she writes,
“Assimilation- such a natural process for most new immigrants seeking to make their way- was anathema to my community, to be avoided at all costs.”
I highly recommend reading Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years– brilliant reads of a true family story.
Harper Collins provided a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
What are you reading and where are you going?