Monday, March 8, 2021

Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

In the summer of 1917, eighteen graduates of Smith College volunteer to go to France as part of the Smith College Relief Unit. The women will be nine miles from the frontline trenches helping the residents of many small villages with food, housing, schooling, and medical care. The novel focuses on two of these women, Kate and Emmie, who were roommates and best friends while at Smith. Kate, unlike the other women, comes from a poor background, while everyone else, including Emmie, is wealthy. Taking details from a book written by one of the actual members of the unit and the trove of letters that the women sent home while working as part of the group, Willig has written an almost unbelievable story of perseverance, courage, and spunk. A worthy addition to the list of novels written about World War I.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Invisible Woman by Erica Robuck

It's March 1944 and American Virginia Hall works as a spy for the Allies. Her latest mission is travelling throughout the French countryside working as a wireless operator and arranging supply and ammunition drops for the resistance in anticipation of D-Day. Throughout Virginia's journey, the reader gets to know the people who are fighting against the Nazis and learns about Virginia's attempts to keep her distance and not become emotionally involved. The book also recounts, in suspenseful detail, Virginia's life undercover throughout the war and her amazing achievements--even as the enemy had wanted posters of her printed because she was so good at her job. The Invisible Woman tells the exciting story of World War II spy Virginia Hall in novel form. What a page turner--I had a hard time putting it down!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

It's 1942 and Audrey is finding it hard to make ends meet since her husband, Matthew, was presumed dead fighting in Germany. With three sons, she spends her days cooking and baking to make enough money to keep their home, Willow Lodge. Her younger sister, Gwendoline, the lady of nearby Fenley Hall (in an unhappy marriage to Sir Strickland), has a frosty relationship with Audrey. When a cooking contest is announced to find a female co-presenter for the radio program The Kitchen Front, both Audrey and Gwendoline decide to enter. In addition, young assistant cook at Fenley Hall, Nell, and pregnant London chef Zelda also are competitors. The Kitchen Front follows the lives of all four contestants through the three rounds of the event as they cook, bond, and support one another. With loads of details and recipes about wartime cooking and rationing, the novel provides lots of interesting information about life at that time. For example, I was not aware that food rationing in Britain continued until 1954!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

In 1939, Odile gets a job as a librarian at the American Library in Paris. Odile, a native Parisian, loves that the staff and patrons at the library are from all over the world. Soon, however, with the Nazi occupation, life in the city becomes dangerous, and not even the library is safe. In an alternate storyline, it's 1983 and Lily lives with her parents in a small town in Montana next-door to Odile Gustafson. After Lily's mother passes away, Odile becomes a friend and confidante to Lily throughout her teenage years. The Paris Library is an engaging story of friendship and a fascinating retelling of the history of the American Library in Paris.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Landslide by Susan Conley

Documentary filmmaker Jill is finding it hard to cope in Maine after her husband, Kit (a commercial fisherman), is seriously injured in an accident  while he was away working in Nova Scotia. Jill and Kit have two teenage boys--Charlie and Sam. Sam is particularly struggling right now, since losing his best friend, Liam, two years ago in an accident on a bridge while Sam was present. His father's injury has Sam feeling even more unmoored. As a mother and wife, Jill, is grappling with raising her sons on her own and confronting the fact that Kit might have been unfaithful to her while in Canada. Landslide explores Jill's sense of self, looking back on her life and forward to her family's future.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Send for Me by Lauren Fox

Annelise lives with her parents--Klara and Julius--who own a bakery in Feldenheim, Germany. Slowly, they see their world getting smaller and more dangerous as their freedoms and rights are taken away from them because they are Jewish. As Annelise marries and has a daughter, Ruth, they all look for a way to leave Germany. Send for Me recounts, partly through letters, the family's life during the war, and after in the United States. The book also tells the story of Ruth's daughter, Clare, in Milwaukee.

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

Young Freddie Hackett is convinced he's seen a murder as he's ferrying messages around London's streets. He confides in private detective Maisie Dobbs and her assistant, Billy, because he trusts them. They both believe him, but the authorities doubt Freddie's story. This leads Maisie to become involved, especially after a body is found in the Thames with wounds consistent with the attack Freddie described. In Maisie's personal life, she yearns to spend more time with her daughter, Anna, but detective work in the city and her obligations to British intelligence keep her away for part of the week. In addition, Maisie's relationship with American Mark Scott is becoming even more serious. The Consequences of Fear is the latest book in the Maisie Dobbs series and doesn't disappoint. It's always a treat to catch up with Maisie and those in her circle. It will be published next month.