The bulk of my reading tends to be middle grade, supplemented by a hearty dose of young adult, but this year found me picking up more volumes of higher-level historical fiction. To cap off the year and carry me through the holiday season, I’m going to introduce you to my top four historical picks for 2016. (Okay, okay, this first one is actually an entire series.) Only one of them is young adult, the others are fully adult, but they’re all titles I’ve encouraged my teen daughter to read. Unfortunately, she’s not a fan of historical works. If you are, then you’ll certainly want to add these titles to your tbr pile!
Pick number four…
This series is one of my old high school sweethearts, written in the late 80s-90s, but it’s one of my enduring favorites. Bodie Thoene was probably a significant influence on my decision to minor in history a few years later. She certainly solidified my love of historical fiction. Classified as “inspirational fiction”, this series is meant for an adult audience, but it’s clean and engaging enough for young adults. I reread all six books during late summer/early fall and they’re every bit as good as I remember.
This series is a sweeping saga of the events that preclude WW2. Book one, Vienna Prelude, begins in 1836 and chronicles Hitler’s bloodless takeover of Austria. It follows the story of Eliza Lindhiem, a young German Jewess studying music in Vienna. Her father, a flyer hero of WWI, has seen the way the wind is blowing, however. He secured for her a false passport under the much safer name of Eliza Linder. He’s also deeply involved in the rescuing of Jewish children from Hilter’s clutches, and Eliza soon becomes caught up in the same dangerous game. Their heartbreak becomes ours as so many who escaped from Germany become caught in Hitler’s web once again with the fall of Austria.
Many more players share the stage as the series continues, especially after Eliza marries and begins a family of her own–the Wattenbarger family, who ushers children out of the Tyrol; Lucy Strasburg, an SS mistress; Pastor Ibsen, imprisoned for not backing down on his faith; Rachel Lubetkin, daughter of a rabbi in Warsaw, Poland; Winston Churchill, the great man who finally moved England out of their slumber. The list goes on and on. So many lives impacted in so many ways. Some destroyed. Some saved. I fell in love with them all. After Czechoslovakia also succumbs to the Reich, the final pages of book six leave us in that frightened city as Germany begins its invasion of Poland. The two-year journey is eye-opening, inspiring, disturbing, and meticulously researched. And while it does have a Christian perspective (which I share), it is not preachy (which I resent).
The Zion Covenant series is actually a prequel to a prior series, the Zion Chronicles. These five books, while written first, actually take place just after WW2 and breathe life into the events surrounding the birth of the nation of Israel. Many of the same characters, such as the Warsaw rabbi’s daughter, feature in each. I decided to read the two series chronologically this time. I do plan to finish, but I’m well into writing Ebb Tide. And I have several MG books on my docket. It may be a while before I feature the Chronicles on here.
In the meantime, if you like exquisitely written WW2 fiction, get your hands on the Zion Covenant. They aren’t on Kindle, but they were huge best-sellers back in the day and many libraries still have them around. Or you can pick them up for a song from used book stores. My absolute highest recommendation.