Readers who love historical fiction featuring World War II settings have a lot to look forward to in 2018! We’ve selected the biggest, most emotionally compelling World War II novels arriving in 2018. These books span the depth and breadth of World War II and tell the stories of people surviving and triumphing in extraordinary circumstances. Take a look at our list of some of the best WW2 books 2018 has to offer, complete with the publishers’ descriptions.
Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
Servants and socialites sip cocktails side by side on their way to new lives in this “thrilling, seductive, and utterly absorbing” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author) historical suspense novel in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile and Ken Follett’s Night Over Water.
The ship has been like a world within itself, a vast floating city outside of normal rules. But the longer the journey continues, the more confined it is starting to feel, deck upon deck, passenger upon passenger, all of them churning around each other without anywhere to go…
1939: Europe is on the brink of war when young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. She is ready to start anew, leaving behind the shadows in her past. The passage proves magical, complete with live music, cocktails, and fancy dress balls. With stops at exotic locations along the way — Naples, Cairo, Ceylon — the voyage shows Lily places she’d only ever dreamed of and enables her to make friends with those above her social station, people who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings.
But Lily soon realizes that she’s not the only one hiding secrets. Her newfound friends — the toxic wealthy couple Eliza and Max; Cambridge graduate Edward; Jewish refugee Maria; fascist George — are also running away from their pasts. As the glamour of the voyage fades, the stage is set for something sinister to occur. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and Lily’s life will be changed irrevocably.
Release date: January 9
Munich by Robert Harris
From the internationally best-selling author of Fatherland and the Cicero Trilogy — a new spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the fateful Munich Conference of September 1938.
Hugh Legat is a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serving at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Rikard von Holz is on the staff of the German Foreign Office — and secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Now, when Hugh flies with Chamberlain from London to Munich, and Rikard travels on Hitler’s train overnight from Berlin, their paths are set on a disastrous collision course. And once again, Robert Harris gives us actual events of historical importance — here are Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier — at the heart of an electrifying, unputdownable novel.
Release date: January 16
Little Reunions by Eileen Chang
A bestselling, autobiographical depiction of class privilege, bad romance, and political intrigue during World War II in China.
Now available in English for the first time, Eileen Chang’s dark romance opens with Julie, living at a convent school in Hong Kong on the eve of the Japanese invasion. Her mother, Rachel, long divorced from Julie’s opium-addict father, saunters around the world with various lovers. Recollections of Julie’s horrifying but privileged childhood in Shanghai clash with a flamboyant, sometimes incestuous cast of relations that crowd her life. Eventually, back in Shanghai, she meets the magnetic Chih-yung, a traitor who collaborates with the Japanese puppet regime. Soon they’re in the throes of an impassioned love affair that swings back and forth between ardor and anxiety, secrecy and ruin. Like Julie’s relationship with her mother, her marriage to Chih-yung is marked by long stretches of separation interspersed with unexpected little reunions. Chang’s emotionally fraught, bitterly humorous novel holds a fractured mirror directly in front of her own heart.
Release date: January 16
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Amid the turbulence of World War II, a young German woman finds a precarious haven closer to the source of danger than she ever imagined — one that will propel her through the extremes of privilege and terror under Hitler’s dictatorship…
In early 1943, Magda Ritter’s parents send her to relatives in Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. Young German women are expected to do their duty — working for the Reich or marrying to produce strong, healthy children. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat. Only after weeks of training does she learn her assignment: she will be one of several young women tasting the Führer’s food, offering herself in sacrifice to keep him from being poisoned.
Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof seems worlds away from the realities of battle. Though terrified at first, Magda gradually becomes used to her dangerous occupation—though she knows better than to voice her misgivings about the war. But her love for a conspirator within the SS, and her growing awareness of the Reich’s atrocities, draw Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.
Vividly written and ambitious in scope, The Taster examines the harrowing moral dilemmas of war in an emotional story filled with acts of extraordinary courage.
Release date: January 30
White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht
In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.
Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As ahaenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. Buthaenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.
South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than 60 years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?
Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.
Release date: January 30
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant
New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant unleashes the gritty and powerful conclusion to the Front Line series and evokes the brutal truth of World War II: War is hell. An epic tale of historical reimagining, perfect for fans of Code Name Verity and Salt to the Sea.
Courage, sacrifice, and fear have lead Rio, Frangie, and Rainy through front-line battles in North Africa and Sicily, and their missions are not over. These soldiers and thousands of Allies must fight their deadliest battle yet — for their country and their lives — as they descend into the freezing water and onto the treacherous sands of Omaha Beach. It is June 6, 1944. D-Day has arrived.
No longer naive recruits, these soldier girls are now Silver Star recipients and battle-hardened. Others look to them for guidance and confidence, but this is a war that will leave 60 million dead. Flesh will turn to charcoal. Piles will be made of torn limbs. The women must find a way to lead while holding on to their own last shreds of belief in humanity.
Release date: January 30
Winter Kept Us Warm by Anne Raeff
Ulli is a young woman squatting in a dismal, empty Berlin apartment, one year after the war has ended. She’s scraping together a living as an interpreter between American GIs and the wide-eyed local girls eager to meet them. One night, Ulli meets two soldiers who will change her life: Leo, handsome and ambitious and desperate to escape his small-town upbringing; and intellectual, asthmatic Isaac, whose refugee parents had fled Russia for New York.
Winter Kept Us Warm follows Ulli, Leo, and Isaac through the next six decades of their lives — from Berlin to postwar Manhattan, 1960s Los Angeles, and contemporary Morocco. A marriage. Two children. And yet only one parent. At the core of this novel is the mystery of how this came to be: a twisting narrative that explores the dark corners and lantern slides of these characters’ lives, revealing in pieces and fragments what became of their long-ago love triangle set against the brutality of postwar living.
Winter Kept Us Warm is an evocative story of family, strained by the cruelty of war and its generational repercussions. A novel of the heart, filled to the brim with unforgettable characters stitching together the deep threads of love, friendship, loyalty, and, of course, loss.
Release date: February 1
The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”
In November 1944, 18-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months–a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.
The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.
Release date: February 6
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman
Hawaii, 1944. The Pacific battles of World War II continue to threaten American soil, and on the home front, the bonds of friendship and the strength of love are tested.
Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something — or someone — has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.
Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again.
Release date: February 13
All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski
A wealthy family tries — and fails — to seal themselves off from the chaos of post-World War II life surrounding them in this stunning novel by one of Germany’s most important post-war writers.
In East Prussia, January 1945, the German forces are in retreat and the Red Army is approaching. The von Globig family’s manor house, the Georgenhof, is falling into disrepair. Auntie runs the estate as best she can since Eberhard von Globig, a special officer in the German army, went to war, leaving behind his beautiful but vague wife, Katharina, and her bookish 12-year-old son, Peter. As the road fills with Germans fleeing the occupied territories, the Georgenhof begins to receive strange visitors — a Nazi violinist, a dissident painter, a Baltic baron, even a Jewish refugee. Yet in the main, life continues as banal, wondrous, and complicit as ever for the family, until their caution, their hedged bets, and their denial are answered by the wholly expected events they haven’t allowed themselves to imagine.
All for Nothing, published in 2006, was the last novel by Walter Kempowski, one of postwar Germany’s most acclaimed and popular writers.
Release date: February 13
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…
In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.
Nearly 30 years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.
Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…
Release date: February 20
The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel
For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, this powerful novel of fate, resistance, and family — by the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting and When We Meet Again — tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.
When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.
Charlotte Dacher is 11 when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.
Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting — and an unexpected road home.
When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis — and to open their own broken hearts — as they fight to survive. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.
Release date: March 27
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn — a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.
In 1937, 28-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly — and uncontrollably — falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.
Release date: May 1
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The English Patient: a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself–shadowed and luminous at once — we read the story of 14-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey — through facts, recollection, and imagination–that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.
Release date: May 8
Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
For fans of Tayari Jones and Ruth Ozeki, from National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Rizzuto comes a haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast.
Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in dreamlike isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were fatherless, mixed-race, and utterly inseparable, devoted to one another. But when their cherished threesome with Mama is broken, and then further shattered by a violent, nearly fatal betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever–until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana’s lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.
Told in interwoven narratives that glide seamlessly between the gritty streets of New York, the lush and dangerous landscape of Hawaii, and the horrors of the Japanese internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima, Shadow Child is set against an epic sweep of history. Volcanos, tsunamis, abandonment, racism, and war form the urgent, unforgettable backdrop of this intimate, evocative, and deeply moving story of motherhood, sisterhood, and second chances.
Release date: May 8
Eagle and Crane by Suzanne Rindell
Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada — Eagle and Crane — are the star attractions of Earl Shaw’s Flying Circus, a daredevil (and not exactly legal) flying act that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas — Japanese immigrants — stole land that should have stayed in the Thorn family.
When Louis and Harry become aerial stuntmen, performing death-defying tricks high above audiences, they’re both drawn to Shaw’s smart and appealing stepdaughter, Ava Brooks. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and one of Shaw’s planes mysteriously crashes and two charred bodies are discovered in it, authorities conclude that the victims were Harry and his father, Kenichi, who had escaped from a Japanese internment camp they had been sent to by the federal government. To the local sheriff, the situation is open and shut. But to the lone FBI agent assigned to the case, the details don’t add up.
Thus begins an investigation into what really happened to cause the plane crash, who was in the plane when it fell from the sky, and why no one involved seems willing to tell the truth. By turns an absorbing mystery and a fascinating exploration of race, family and loyalty, Eagle and Crane is that rare novel that tells a gripping story as it explores a terrible era of American history.
Release date: July 3
Which of these books do you plan to read? Share in the comments!