WWII Fiction/Nonfiction Trio

July 9, 2020 Uncategorized 8 ★★★★

WWII Fiction/Nonfiction TrioTitle: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
Author: Erik Larson
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

As Larson himself notes in the intro to The Splendid and the Vile, a lot has been written on Churchill already. Do we really need more? Maybe not, but if Eric Larson is the one doing the writing, I definitely want more. This look at a year in the life of Churchill and his family was exactly what I expect from Larson. The writing was engaging and included lots of dialogue, all from well cited, primary sources. The text itself is almost completely without citations, including for claims about motivations that I considered quite important. The story seamlessly weaves together intimate personal stories and global, historical events. I thought the personal elements were the strongest yet in any of his books though. Spending just over 500 pages on a single year meant we could really get to know people. As a result, this just edges out Devil in the White City as my favorite of Larson’s books.

WWII Fiction/Nonfiction TrioTitle: After the Party
Author: Cressida Connolly
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Since I enjoyed Larson’s book so much, I decided to use it as motivation to get to some of the many historical fiction novels on my to-read pile. The two I review here cover a similar time period to Larson’s book, starting just pre-WWII. The summary of this particular book claims that it will cover “a dark period of British history which has yet to be fully acknowledged.” Unfortunately, it reads like its sole purpose was to serve as a history lesson. The main character is almost a blank slate. She’s quiet but will laugh along with her sister’s meanness. She gets involved with a political group almost exclusively because she’s bored and her friends are doing it. She doesn’t even seem to totally grasp their platform. Nearly every character in this book is classist, racist, and/or just plain unlikable. Almost nothing happens for the first half of the book. The second half does cover an interesting period in history and I enjoyed it a bit more. The writing was also pretty good, with some lovely nature descriptions. Overall though, I found this a boring read with characters I did not enjoy spending time with. I can’t recommend it.

WWII Fiction/Nonfiction TrioTitle: The Kennedy Debutante
Author: Kerri Maher
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

I was much happier that I picked up this book on Kick Kennedy, daughter of the American ambassador to Britain and yes, one of those Kennedys. This was a delightful coming of age story. I loved watching Kick grow up and fight to achieve some measure of independence from her family. I also enjoyed the inside look at her family and her social circle during this time period. She held some interesting jobs too, which were fun to learn about. She does deal with an awful lot of tragedy in her life (and more post the end of the novel), but the novel itself wasn’t too much of a downer. As someone who isn’t religious, I still enjoyed that Catholicism played an important role in her life. It wasn’t preachy and I don’t read that many books about characters who are religious, so I liked getting a different perspective. Mostly, I just found Kick an interesting person and enjoyed getting to spend time with her.

8 Responses to “WWII Fiction/Nonfiction Trio”

  1. Rennie

    I was curious about the new Eric Larson even though I haven’t much enjoyed either of his other books I’ve read. I think he’s just not for me. But considering as much as has been written about Churchill, I haven’t read all that much about him so was curious what kind of approach this one took. Glad to hear you liked it so much!

  2. Helen Murdoch

    2 out of 3 isn’t bad! My dad really enjoyed the Splendid and the Vile; Erik Larson tends to do a good job with his books (though I just tried to read Thunderstruck and couldn’t finish it).

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