Book to the Future: 1940s
Pick up your South West Reading Passport 2016: Book to the Future from your local library, read through the decades and win prizes from now until March 2017. Find out more on our Book to the Future blog post.
There are more suggestions in your passport, as well as on the South West Reading Passport website, but we’ve gathered a selection of books to get you started, either set in, or published in, the 1940s. You can also download a reading list here: 1940s Reading List
Jeffrey Archer, Only Time Will Tell. This book takes a cast of memorable characters from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take his place at Oxford, or join the fight against Hitler’s Germany.
George Orwell, Animal Farm. ‘All animals are equal – but some are more equal than others’ When the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master Mr Jones and take over the farm themselves, they imagine it is the beginning of a life of freedom and equality. But gradually a cunning, ruthless élite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, starts to take control. Soon the other animals discover that they are not all as equal as they thought, and find themselves hopelessly ensnared as one form of tyranny is replaced with another.
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief. 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See. A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II
Sebastian Faulks, Where My Heart Used to Beat. On a small island off the south coast of France, Robert Hendricks – an English doctor who has seen the best and the worst the twentieth century had to offer – is forced to confront the events that made up his life. His host is Alexander Pereira, a man who seems to know more about his guest than Hendricks himself does. The search for the past takes us through the war in Italy in 1944, a passionate love that seems to hold out hope, the great days of idealistic work in the 1960s and finally – unforgettably – back into the trenches of the Western Front.
William Boyd, Sweet Caress. Amory Clay’s first memory is of her father doing a handstand – but it is his absences that she chiefly remembers. Her Uncle Greville, a photographer, gives her both the affection she needs and a camera, which unleashes a passion that irrevocably shapes her future. She begins an apprenticeship with him in London, photographing socialites for magazines. But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demi-monde of 1920s Berlin, New York in the 1930s, the Blackshirt riots in London, and France during the Second World War, where she becomes one of the first women war photographers.
Ian McEwan, Atonement. This novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
C S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. This profound and striking narrative takes the form of a series of letters from Screwtape, a devil high in the Infernal Civil Service, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior colleague engaged in his first mission on earth trying to secure the damnation of a young man who has just become a Christian.
Eric Lomax, The Railway Man. During the Second World War Eric Lomax was forced to work on the notorious Burma-Siam Railway and was tortured by the Japanese for making a crude radio.Left emotionally scarred and unable to form normal relationships, Lomax suffered for years until, with the help of his wife, Patti Lomax, and of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, he came terms with what happened. Fifty years after the terrible events, he was able to meet one of his tormentors.
Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter. Scobie, a police officer serving in a wartime West African state, is distrusted, being scrupulously honest and immune to bribery. But then he falls in love, and in doing so he is forced to betray everything he believes in, with drastic and tragic consequences.
Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous.
Mary Anne Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.