Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Ali WarlightI love Michael Ondaatje’s style of writing, it is somehow old fashioned but reads so well and carries you along through atmospheric landscapes meeting characters you can easily picture in your mind’s eye. He is most famous for writing The English Patient which was made into a film starring Ralph Fiennes.
His first novel in seven years, Warlight is set in London immediately after the war when 14 year old Nathanial’s parents announce that they are leaving to live and work in Singapore and Nathaniel and his sister Rachel will be cared for by the lodger, who they name The Moth and suspect of being a thief.
The story is narrated by an adult Nathaniel and recounts the life they lived with a household full of characters , some of whom are associates of their parents and some who appear to be petty criminals on the make. The fact that their parents up and left them with strangers is odd but the children accept it, perhaps not easily but maybe because the relationship with their parents was sometimes distant and formal.
As the story moves on and Nathaniel grows up he is recruited by British Intelligence to review war time files where he uncovers events of the past that help him understand his mother and explains the cast of characters he knew as family through his adolescence.
It’s a twisty tale told beautifully with wonderful characters and unexpected turns.

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The orphan’s tale by Pam Jenoff

cynthia-orphans-tale.jpgThis was an atmospheric and emotional read. The story features two women who have become part of a travelling circus during World War II. Families are torn apart and then you find family in another place, most likely where you did not expect to find it. I always find it interesting and amazing to see how the human spirit and courage comes out in these stories based during World War II. Whether it is the courage to hide Jews from the Germans or simply the courage to love again.

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The land girls by Victoria Purman

cynthia-land-girls.jpgThe land girls gives you a glimpse of what life was like for those who did not go to war. Three very different girls (women) answer the call to join the Australian Women’s Land army, each wanting to contribute to the war effort. We read about each of the women individually, why they joined the Land Army and how their lives changed, before the author brings them together. The story felt very real and I enjoyed reading about their experiences, both happy and sad.

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Cynthia Somewhere in FranceSociety girl Lily decides to do her bit for the war and joins the Women’s Army Auxillary Corps. She gets herself posted overseas as an ambulance driver at a casulty clearing station, the same place as Robbie, her brother’s friend, doctor, son of a dustman and Lily’s love. But of course society’s rules have been drummed into both throughout their entire lives. This makes for stilted conversations even though they are madly in love. It was also the most irksome thing about this story. The theatre of war was well created, it was the personal interactions between the characters that let the story down.

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On the beach by Nevil Shute

amy-on-the-beach.jpgWhat would you do if you knew the world was to end in just a few months? After a short, nuclear war in the northern hemisphere, the only people left alive are down south, but radiation sickness is slowly heading towards them. Less technical than many Shute novels, this is a fascinating look at what could have happened if war broke out in the sixties, and how people might have dealt with impending death. It’s thoughtful, sweet, amusingly old-fashioned (the female characters!), and ultimately moving.

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The pearl thief by Fiona McIntosh

Cynthia Pearl ThiefI enjoyed this historical novel. There is horror, revenge and love. It is a story that shows the atrocity of the Nazi regime and the survival of the human spirit. Katerina is shown kindness when needed, and this helps her survive and be able to love again. This balances all the emotions throughout the story. I know many people’s stories did not end so well during and after the war, but it is nice to see a positive ending to this story.

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Amy TranscriptionI was always going to love this; WWII, espionage and Kate Atkinson are all right up my alley, and I wasn’t disappointed. Juliet Armstrong is 18 when she is recruited into MI5, and a job that is mundane and frightening at the same time. Juliet’s war, like that of so many others, was complicated, and ten years later people from her past turn up in her life and she must confront the past. The characters are compelling, the story is clever, funny, deeply insightful and surprising.

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The jade lily by Kirsty Manning

cynthia-the-jade-lily-e1542597698228.jpgA great historical novel based on the resettlement of Jewish refugees to Shanghai during World War II. I was amazed at how the human spirit can still shine in the most horrendous of situations. The descriptions of life in Shanghai were rich, with food featuring. The modern part of the dual storyline had a few unbelievable coincidences, but I could forgive the author as they made the story flow. I enjoyed the story, particularly learning about this unknown (to me) part of history.

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