Julieverse Reads: Pam Jenoff’s list of the best World War II Historical Fiction

In July, Pam Jenoff published The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, an historical novel based in the 1940’s. Today on Julieverse, she curated a selection of other books based in the same fascinating time period. (This post contains affiliate links to some of the best novels based on the World War 2 time period. Enjoy… and thank you!)

Author Pam Jenoff recommends more than 10 World War II period books that you'll love. See what else is on this amazing list.

One of the many things I love best about writing historical fiction is the chance to learn about wonderful historical novels, especially those set during the Second World War. So many readers (and writers) are passionate about World War II novels. Of course with so many to choose from, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I offer here for your consideration, some of my greatest hits:

The Gold Standard

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which tells parallel stories of a blind French girl and conscripted German boy, has won so much praise (and the Pulitzer) and rightfully so. Also an instant classic is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, the story of two courageous French sisters during the war.

Book club picks

Readers still talk to me constantly about Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, a tale of a mother who becomes close to a German officer to protect her child. A perennial book club pick is The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman, which tells of an elderly man at his grandson’s wedding who realizes that the bride’s grandmother is the wife he has long thought perished. David Gillham’s City of Women is a remarkable story of female kinship and survival in World War II Berlin.

Hidden Gems

There are some great World War II books that you may have missed. All That I Am by Anna Funder is my go-to recommendation, a chilling story of some German exiles in London during the war. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake was quite popular a few years ago, but I have not heard as much about it lately. It toggles between a coastal New England town and a female radio correspondent in London during the war. Fugitive Colors by Lisa Barr is the remarkable story of artists in France and Germany during the Holocaust.

Something Different

It can be fun to read about the war in a different way. For example, the suspenseful Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia McNeal features a young American woman who finds herself in unusual circumstances during the war – start with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. A more recent title is At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, the story of an American woman who finds herself hunting for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland during the war. And be sure to check out Grand Central: Original Stories of Post-War Love and Reunion, which features ten short stories (disclaimer: one of them is mine) by authors such as Karen White, Erika Robuck, Sarah McCoy and Kristina McMorris, passing through Grand Central Terminal on the same day in 1945.

Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m always thrilled to hear about other great World War II titles, so be sure to let me know some of your favorites!

pam jenoff, author of The Last Summer at Chelsea BeachPam Jenoff is the internationally bestselling author of several novels, including The Kommandant’s Girl and (just released!) The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. Follow Pam: twitter | website | facebook

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. Mary Anne Wilson says

    Don’t forget Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis! And tangentially, To Say Nothing of the Dog, same author. SO GOOD!

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