It wasn’t until I moved to France that I started to read fiction about World War II, especially stories set there. This is my most recent reading list of the best books set in World War II France — and though it comes in the middle of the list, go with Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française first — all of these books are gorgeously written, but only Suite Française was written gorgeously while the author was under threat of deportation to the Nazi death camps. (And indeed, she died at 39 at Auschwitz.) The story of the book’s survival is worth a movie of its own, as it was saved by Némirovsky’s daughter for over 60 years and only published in 2004. It’s a miracle that her book survived — and a testament to the power of writing, that after all this time, her voice can still be heard.
This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, by Tadeusz Borowski IN SHORT: This is a harrowing, fictionalized account of life as a prisoner at Auschwitz. THE BEST BIT: It is hard to use the word “best bit” to describe any passage in this book, because “best” implies an enjoyment that is difficult to come by here.
I am trying to read a book from every country in the world. The last book I read was Italy: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. IN SHORT: This is the true, anonymously published story of one woman’s experiences in Berlin following the Nazi surrender, and the arrival of the Red Army. It is harrowing.