Even if you haven’t read it, chances are you’ve at least heard of All the Light We Cannot See. Anthony Doerr’s novel took the book world by storm over the past year, flying off shelves over Christmas and clogging up library hold lists for months. If you’re one of the many who read and loved it, you may be looking for another novel to sweep you off your feet. Here are six books that have the potential to do just that while looking at war through a slightly different lens.
After being arrested during the siege of Leningrad, Lev and Kolya attempt to escape execution by trying to find a dozen eggs to use in the wedding cake of a high-ranking Soviet official. Though the task seems impossible, the novel follows the pair as they journey through the city on their mission to freedom.
Isaac Helger’s parents fled Lithuania for South Africa after the First World War, seeking refuge from the same horror that left his mother’s face permanently scarred. The family settles into a working-class Jewish neighborhood in Johannesburg, but Isaac’s mother can only dream of her son earning money to save the rest of her family from dangers on the horizon in Lithuania. Faced with this task, Isaac’s life becomes a series of encounters, partnerships, relationships and secrets aimed solely at success.
Eight-year-old Havaa has been left alone in her small war-torn village in Chechnya after her father’s capture by Russian forces. Her neighbor, Akhmed, takes her to the town’s shell of a hospital, where he makes an agreement with the remaining doctor, Sonja, to help him care for the young girl. The novel weaves between 2004 and 1994 to trace the roots of the Chechen Wars and the personal histories of its characters, which wind up being more connected than they realize.
In a desperate attempt to earn leave from WWII’s Eastern front, German soldier Peter Faber chooses to marry Katharina Spinell based only on her photograph. Though they are married on opposite ends of the continent, within weeks Peter has earned ten days of honeymoon leave to spend with Katharina in Berlin. Surprisingly, ten days proves long enough for the pair to develop a passionate love too soon torn apart when Peter is required to return to Russia. In Peter’s absence, Katharina and her parents learn both the risks and benefits of inching close to the upper ranks of the Nazi Party hierarchy.
As a thirteen year-old girl, Briony Tallis witnesses a moment between her sister and the son of a servant that she misreads, leading her to accuse him of a crime and shift their lives forever. The novel follows Briony, her sister and Robbie through World War II and traces the impact of the crime on each of their lives.
Told in a series of memories by a string of strangers in years spanning from 1939 to 2010, The Illusion of Separateness centers on soldiers wounded during World War II and the sacrifices they make. The novel traces the echoes of their choices through the second half of the century in distinct voices connected by subtle lines.
Have you read any books you would recommend to fans of All the Light We Cannot See?