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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

Historical Fiction Review – The Piano Teacher

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I am always interested in books set during World War II and I like to look for books that explore various perspectives of the war. The Piano Teacher is set in Hong Kong in the years surrounding World War II. The story is not told in chronologically, but rather flashbacks to before and during the war are dispersed amongst events from the 1950s.

Claire Pendleton arrives in Hong Kong with her husband after the war. She gets a job as a piano teacher for the daughter of the wealthy Chen family. The Chen’s driver, Will Truesdale, is handsome and mysterious and Claire is drawn to him immediately. Feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in her marriage, Claire begins an affair with Will. As Claire gets to know Will better, she realizes his experiences during the war deeply impacted him. She also learns there are deep-rooted secrets from the war shared among the members of Hong Kong’s social elite.

In learning Will’s story, the reader meets Trudy Lang, a socialite in Hong Kong prior to the war. She and Will are in a relationship that gets derailed by the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. Will is forced into an internment camp and Trudy begins her perilous association with the Japanese, including the head of security forces who uses Trudy as a pawn in his dangerous manipulations to gain power and control.

I found this novel a little difficult to get into at first. The characters seemed to lack substance initially and I had a hard time connecting with them and feeling invested in their stories. The storyline did gain traction about half-way through the novel and my interest increased. The characters seemed to gain a ‘voice’ at this point, and it was easier to be interested in what happened to them and I was drawn into their stories. The secrets revealed in the end explained character connections and provided depth to the novel on the whole.






Historical Fiction Review – All the Light We Cannot See

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)


Earlier this year, I picked my top 5 books to read in 2015 (see Hello, 2015! blog post) and All the Light We Cannot See was at the top of my list. This book was quite the emotional journey for me; there were some tears and one moment when I wanted to throw the book across the room.

Set during World War II, Werner and Marie-Laure come from two different worlds. Werner, an orphan German boy, finds a crude, broken radio and he is drawn into science and technology and wanting to know how things work.  He develops an amazing skill of fixing and building radios of all kinds, from all sorts of parts.  Werner and his sister Jutta imagine an incredible world where they can learn and get out of their down-trodden circumstances.

Marie-Laure grows up in France.  As a child she loses her sight and her loving father is determined to do what he can to help Marie-Laure live a normal life.  He carves a wooden scale replica of their neighborhood for Marie-Laure to study so she can develop the confidence and comfort to walk on her own through their neighborhood.  She learns Braille and has amazing adventures through the pages of the books her father is able to give her.

Werner and Marie-Laure live in a time fraught with peril and doubt.  Germany is embracing the promises of Adolf Hitler and, in the beginning of Hitler’s control, neighboring countries don’t realize what an evil force he will be for them to overcome.  Werner and Marie-Laure don’t know of one another and the struggles they experience.  However, eventually their paths converge due to circumstances brought about because of the war.

Focusing on these two children provides a unique perspective on a time in our history that is constantly explored and written about.  I came to care for Werner and Marie-Laure and felt frustration that they were living during such turmoil.  The converging of their lives is beautiful and destined.  All the Light We Cannot See is a wonderful novel with rich, completely thought-out characters with moments of hope that kept me engaged.  If you enjoy World War II-based historical fiction, I think you should add All the Light We Cannot See to your list of books to read this year.