12 Relationship Stories Set Within the Conflict of World War Two

It is our capacity to love that ensures hope remains when terror and darkness falls, and we have chosen 12 novels set within the Second World War that highlight a variety of relationships. Friendship, tenderness, passion, affection, devotion, respect, yearning, all of these attachments and emotions sing out in these stories. Several of these novels contain heart-rending moments, while other tales cherish humour, and a lightness of touch. Some books take you to the immediate vicinity of war, others remain on the home front, all though concentrate on a connection that attempts to survive during the most tragic of times.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

Author: Jennifer Ryan Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/01/2018

An engaging and charmingly bittersweet slice of fiction set during the Second World War. In a Kent village during 1940, the vicar closes the choir, as the ladies of the village start their own choir, the small rebellion creates a chain reaction within their hearts and minds. The war lurks in the background, it’s presence undeniable, yet this tale almost feels timeless. The story is told in a variety of methods, from journals, diaries and letters, to newspaper articles, notices and telegrams. The author Jennifer Ryan creates a beautiful balance in this tale, gentle humour sizzles alongside slicing reality, and a spoonful of love helps proceedings along very nicely. We are allowed to see into the souls of the characters, and yet the gaps are filled in by the telling observations of others. Soft and gentle, yet cutting and knowing, ‘The Chilbury Ladies’s Choir’ is an absolutely gorgeous debut. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
An Act of Love

An Act of Love

Author: Carol Drinkwater Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A dramatic and enthralling relationship tale that captures emotion and takes you on a journey through the Second World War. When Sara and her parents flee their homeland taking refuge in the French Alps, the full impact of the Nazi oppression edges ever closer. Inspired by her visit to a small museum in the Lower Alps Carol Drinkwater has created the most captivating story of young love, and the courage needed to face the most devastating of times. She has the ability to focus on the things that make us human, to create a link that alters the focus from watching, to actually feeling the events that take place. A balance is created between the intimate moments of relationships and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during the horror of war. This is ultimately as much a story about Sara’s own relationship with, and understanding of herself as it is with the man she falls in love with. The ending came with beautiful words and tears welling up in my eyes, I just had to include this as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. An Act of Love will encourage emotions to dip and soar as it gives hope even in the darkness. The LoveReading LitFest invited Carol to the festival to talk about An Act of Love.   You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Carol in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone should read this book.   Check out a preview of the event here

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Crooked Heart

Crooked Heart

Author: Lissa Evans Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/12/2015

Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015. This is a completely charming and very different slice of World War Two fiction. ‘Crooked Heart’ explores the relationship of Vera, and ten year old Noel, who has been evacuated from London. The prologue sets the story beautifully, releasing snippets of information yet encouraging you to feel, to appreciate the heart and soul of Noel. Lissa Evans balances a gentle charm with barbed spikes of wit and reality. Noel and Vera are amazingly resourceful (that’s the polite way of describing it), yet wonderfully odd, and I couldn't help falling in thoughtful love with them. The other characters are as vibrant and fully formed, even those with walk on parts light up the pages. After initially skulking in the distance, World War Two hammers into their lives, thoroughly testing Noel and Vera’s mettle. With fizzes of quirky wry humour holding hands with contemplative emotions, ‘Crooked Heart’ has craftily slipped into my heart, and I declare it a gorgeous warm hug of a read.  Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

eBooks of the Month
The Lost Lights of St Kilda

The Lost Lights of St Kilda

Author: Elisabeth Gifford Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/10/2020

Inspiring, gorgeous, powerful. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a beautifully written story brimming with guts and determination. When Fred meets Chrissie in 1927 a love flickers into being, the memory of their time together remains with them through the challenging years ahead. This may be described as a love story between two people, it is also a love story about St Kilda, Scotland’s first World Heritage Site. Elisabeth Gifford has used fictional characters in a real setting, with the abandonment of St Kilda and the Second World War adding an incredibly vivid framework to the story. Taking place over forty years, the novel actually starts in 1940 with Fred as a prisoner of war, plotting escape. From here we move backwards and forwards in time, in such a way that the words continued to flow into my awareness and created an intricate patchwork of knowledge and understanding. This love feels real, there is an inner core of strength, hope, and resilience on offer that really spoke to me. I rather fell in love with The Lost Lights of St Kilda, it joins my Liz Robinson picks of the month and comes as highly recommended by me.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Noonday

Noonday

Author: Pat Barker Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/04/2016

An atmospheric, touching and compassionate story based in London during the Second World War, where living on the edge and in the moment occurred on a daily basis. We seem to view Elinor and Paul from a distance, the writing initially skates over their feelings, creating a boundary and a sense of remoteness. When Bertha enters the tale there is an immediate burst of character, colour and emotion, effectively highlighting the other relationships. Pat Barker writes with an eloquently simple, stark style that somehow conveys the significance and consequences of the London Blitz, with even more power and emotion. The London of bombs, fire, craters, rubble, plaster dust, fear and exhaustion is an achingly moving and thought provoking place. This is the third in a trilogy, however I read Noonday as a stand-alone novel and didn’t feel as though I was missing out on what had gone before, though there are enough back references and tantalising hints to encourage me to go back to the beginning just as soon as I can, and I don't think having already read‘Noonday will spoil that experience. Able to delve into the most intimate, hidden places of a relationship, yet simultaneously display the wider aspect of the London Blitz during 1940, this is a commanding and memorable read.

eBooks of the Month
While Paris Slept

While Paris Slept

Author: Ruth Druart Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/03/2021

A truly beautiful and powerful debut, it is haunted with exquisite emotion, but that emotion comes with an uplifting feeling of hope. Towards the end of the Second World War two people meet on a platform next to a train bound for Auschwitz, the exchange that takes place between them will have a bearing on their lives forever more. I entered this novel thinking I knew what to expect, I left having experienced an entirely unexpected read. Set in several time frames, While Paris Slept opens a sequence of doors as new aspects of the story emerge and converge. Each chapter is headed by one of the characters. Ruth Druart uses different points of view to great effect, ensuring each chapter took hold of my thoughts and retained my focus. I invested in each of the characters, the empathy on display here left the page and entered my heart. I would describe this as a positively emotional read, yes it features man’s inhumanity to man, but the intimacy of this particular story lies in a different direction. While Paris Slept is an intriguing, compelling story full of love and hope. It enters our LoveReading Star Books and comes with a highly recommended seal of approval. 

Star Books
The Prisoner's Wife

The Prisoner's Wife

Author: Maggie Brookes Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/04/2020

Set in one of the most harrowing times in history, this powerfully beautiful relationship and friendship story shines a blazing torch on the very best that humanity has to offer. When British prisoner of war Bill, while on work duty from a labour camp in the depths of Czechoslovakia in 1944, meets farmer Izabela, love blossoms. They secretly marry, go on the run and determine that they will never be separated, not even if captured by the German army. Based on a true story it feels as though Maggie Brookes was destined to meet Sidney Reed who told her this tale, and that as a historical documentary researcher and producer for the BBC she was perfectly placed to write this as a novel. The prologue starts with the couple on the run from the German army, Izabela has disguised herself as a man, and by pretending to be mute when finally captured, is taken with Bill to a prisoner of war camp. Setting the scene so thoroughly heightened my emotions as chapter one then took me back to their first meeting. I’ve already read a number of novels and non-fiction books relating to this time, including one of the books Maggie Brookes mentions as further reading. My prior reading and knowing what was to come from the prologue, still in no way prepared me for what Bill and Izabela were to face. This intimate, vivid and compelling account reaches through the nightmare and finds true love and friendship, all of which is written beautifully by the author. The Prisoner’s Wife meets horror head on, so prepare yourself, but it also filled me with hope, and this comes as highly recommended by me.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Very White of Love

The Very White of Love

Author: S. C. Worrall Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/12/2018

A touchingly intimate yet scorchingly dramatic and fully realised view of a couple who meet just before the Second World War. This is a relationship tale that took hold of me, brought me to its very centre and allowed me access to innermost thoughts and feelings. Martin and Nancy fall in love, as Martin departs for the battlefields of France, they continue to communicate by letter, until suddenly Martin’s letters stop. My advice to you is to pick this book up, start to read, and whatever you do, do not allow the final few pages to fall open before you reach them. For me the ending was a heart-stopping moment, and is still very much in my mind, the emotion of the realisation continues to affect me. The letters are exquisitely crafted, with real heart, tying into the story perfectly and bringing a sense of nostalgia for this type of communication. S. C. Worrall allows the war to edge ever closer, until it strikes with a sharp hammer blow. The Very White of Love takes you step by step into another time, heartfelt and beautiful I can wholeheartedly recommend this read. 

Books of the Month
The Silent Hours

The Silent Hours

Author: Cesca Major Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/11/2015

Extraordinarily powerful and emotional, this debut fictional tale, based around a true event that occurred during the Second World War, is one that shouldn't be missed. On the brink of war, clouds are gathering in a small French village, a young boy tries to weather the storm, a couple fall in love and we discover that for one person the tempest has already passed and is now buried in silence. Time doesn't run sequentially, allowing a feeling of disquiet, concern and dread to steal across the pages as worlds and lives collide. This story feels very personal, the author shows us ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, living life as best they can. If you aren't already aware of the incident that occurs towards the end of the book, don't research it further until you've finished, instead connect to the people, let them become a part of you, experience their dreams and feel their emotions, in this eloquently moving and thought provoking novel. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
In Love and War

In Love and War

Author: Alex Preston Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/07/2015

A remarkably captivating book that starts as a slow-burner then sparks into an absolute firecracker of a read. The introduction to Fascism in Florence just before World War Two, when we know life is on the brink of upheaval and collapse, is artfully portrayed by the author. Lazy summer days full of vibrant idealists and English eccentricity is peppered by prejudice, corruption and brutality, deliberately keeping you on edge and apprehensive. As war breaks out, we observe as Esmond the title character is influenced by others, we bear witness as he alters, changes, transforms. The author brings this time, this city, these people, their ideals vividly to life. At times this is an extremely uncomfortable read, however every word, every thought, every emotion feels completely essential. Prepare to sit on the edge of the precipice, prepare for the heartrending plummet of shock and upset, prepare for the impact that a powerful and compelling novel leaves behind. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/01/2007

This is a coming-of-age, incredibly thought-provoking, beautifully written and utterly original book.  The book thief in the story is a nine-year old girl but this incredible story will resonate with any teenager.  It’s 1939 in Nazi Germany and as the bombs begin to fall, the story of Liesel, the nine year old girl and the inhabitants of Himmel Street begins to unfold as narrated by ‘death’.  Put simply, this book is breathtaking.

Books of the Month
Dear Mrs Bird

Dear Mrs Bird

Author: A. J. Pearce Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/12/2018

What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.

Star Books

Comments (2)

CharlesVapPG C - 15th September 2021

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JarredhicheRU J - 15th September 2021

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