COLUMN: Lest We Forget

Frances Thomson, community librarian at the George Mackie Library, recommends some historical fiction to read this Remembrance Day.

George Mackie Library in North Delta

Every year on Nov. 11, Canadians take time to remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our country during times of war, conflict and peace. Over 2.3 million Canadians have served in this way, and more than 118,000 lost their lives doing so.

My favourite genre of book is historical fiction. It began in elementary school when I read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time. Since then I have been interested in stories of life during the two world wars, the Holocaust and the resistance movement.

Crooked Heart, by Lissa Evans, tells the story of 10-year-old Noel who has been evacuated from London during the Blitz. He is placed with Vera Sedge, a 36-year-old widow who is drowning in debt. She has designs on using Noel, who limps, to gain sympathy as she solicits donations for her war charity scam while pocketing the money. Amid the terrors of war are some lighthearted and humorous moments between the precocious orphan and his guardian.

Set during the German occupation of France in the Second World War, Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale is an epic family drama about sisters Viann and Isabelle Rossignol, whose lives took very different paths after the death of their mother turned their father into a distant parent. Through Viann we see how life was disrupted when men were forced to enlist while the Germans took over their towns and villages. The younger Isabelle, always rebellious, joins the resistance in Paris, risking her life guiding fallen airmen out of France.

The Far Side of the Sky is the first book in a wartime trilogy by Daniel Kalla. (Interesting side note – the author is an emergency room physician at Vancouver General Hospital.) Franz Adler, a secular Austrian Jew and surgeon, witnesses the wave of anti-Semitic violence on Kristallnacht when his brother is killed. He manages to secure passage to Shanghai for himself, his daughter and his sister-in-law. The trilogy focuses on the little-known part of Holocaust history – the 20,000 German Jews who escaped to Shanghai where Nazis, Communists, Japanese, English and Americans all lived together under surreal circumstances.

In addition to the countless novels about war, there are as many memoirs and non-fiction books about this period of history. A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead is a well-researched account about some of the 230 French women who were part of the resistance movement in Paris. Among them were teachers, students, chemists and an opera singer. In 1943 they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only 49 would return to France. The book draws on interviews with these women and their families.

Moorehead followed up this bestseller with Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France. High in the mountains of southern France, the inhabitants of Le Chambon saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo. Many were children and babies whose parents had been sent to the death camps in Poland.

While some books about war may be difficult to read, many offer inspiring stories of ordinary people, bravery and survival. We must never forget these dark times in world history.

Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.

Just Posted

‘Stuff the Sleigh’ event aims to collect 5,000 Christmas toys for Surrey children

The Surrey Central Lions Club event will support the Surrey Christmas Bureau

Call for better security follows fuel thefts at South Surrey Park & Ride

White Rock man says someone used a drill to drain his fuel tank Wednesday

Surrey RCMP seeking help to find man missing since Nov. 7

Hyung ‘John’ Lee was last seen in the 13300-block of Old Yale Road

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s help in finding missing 16-year-old

Police say Micyla ‘Amber’ Havenga was last seen on Nov. 12

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Paul Bissonnette joins Vancouver Warriors after tweeting he could walk on to an NLL club

Bissonnette will join the Warriors for their final week of training camp at Rogers Arena

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Body found after SUV found fully engulfed in flames in Abbotsford field

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team have been called in

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

Most Read