Share 15 WWII Novels Beyond Europe’s Shores

15 WWII Novels Beyond Europe’s Shores

Erin Flaaen is a corporate marketing assistant at Simon and Schuster. Despite her innocent appearance, she loves dark stories, having been strongly influenced by Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner as a teenager. Originally from Arizona, she moved to New York in 2014 and now spends her days being constantly confused by the weather, craving Mexican food, and reading books on trains.

With readers around the world embracing novels like ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, THE NIGHTINGALE, and EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who loves stunning and beautiful World War II fiction. Several months ago, I read GONE TO SOLDIERS by Marge Piercy and fell in love with its unique kaleidoscopic perspectives on the war. I have since been on a hunt for more World War II fiction that portrays the war from viewpoints outside of Europe. I have discovered many novels that show the war as it played out in Asia, America, and the Pacific. Here are just a few I most look forward to reading.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford
Moving between the past and the present, this novel follows a Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl as they form an innocent love during the time of Japanese internment. Forty years later, Henry hunts among the belongings of families forced into Japanese internment camps for a special object left behind by Keiko’s family.

The Kitchen God's Wife
by Amy Tan

After a lifetime of keeping the terrible truth about her past a secret, Winnie finally tells her daughter about her life on a small island outside Shanghai during World War II, detailing both the happy and desperate events that led her to immigrate to America after the war.

Jasmine Nights
by Julia Gregson

Based on the true accounts of female entertainers who acted as spies during World War II, JASMINE NIGHTS is the story of one singer asked to help the British Secret Service in the Middle East—and of her love, a handsome fighter pilot back in the cockpit after being wounded during a crash.

A Town Like Alice
by Nevil Shute
Jean Paget, an Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the Japanese and forced into a seven-month death march. Managing to survive this nightmare, Jean begins a search for the young Australian soldier who risked his life to help the women during this harrowing ordeal.

A Pale View of Hills
by Kazuo Ishiguro

While many know Kazuo Ishiguro’s THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and its film adaptation starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, we also recommend A PALE VIEW OF HILLS. Told from the perspective of a Japanese woman living in England, this one is set during the aftermath of the war in Nagasaki.

Rumors of Peace
by Ella Leffland

Living in a small town thirty miles east of San Francisco, Suse Hansen is a young woman reconciling her growing knowledge of human nature with the horrors of the news reports she follows. The superbly written coming-of-age story shows the effects of the war on the American homefront.

Black Rain
by Masuji Ibuse

This is the story of a young woman caught in radioactive “black rain” immediately following the bombing of Hiroshima, which led to periodic bouts of sickness and worry that her future children will also be affected.

Two Sons of China
by Andrew Lam

When a Communist guerrilla leader and an American soldier are partnered on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines to fight the Japanese, they form an unlikely friendship. As the war ends, their bond is tested when America takes sides in the Nationalist-Communist civil war.

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
by Gail Tsukiyama
Hiroshi and Kenji are two orphaned brothers growing up in Tokyo and dreaming of brighter futures rooted in their practice of sumo wrestling and Noh theater mask-making. But as the effects of war reach their quiet neighborhood, the brothers must put their dreams on hold in order to survive in a new Japan.

Nanjing Requiem
by Ha Jin

With the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, the American dean of Jinling Women’s College decides to stay to protect the Chinese men and women who work there. Following the invasion, the school becomes a refugee camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and the dean finds herself fighting on their behalf.

by Joy Kogawa

OBASAN tells the lesser-known story of the Japanese-Canadians who were forced into internment camps during the war. Told as flashbacks, this novel chronicles internment through the eyes of a child.

The Wives of Los Alamos
by TaraShea Nesbit
While their husbands worked in secret labs inventing the atomic bomb, this group of wives joined together in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Friendships were forged and children grew up, all while their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind and the war raging across the ocean.

Tales of the South Pacific
by James A. Michener
The inspiration for the Broadway play “South Pacific,” this gripping novel won the Pulitzer Prize. With the backdrop of a tropical paradise, soldiers and sailors prepare for war, a young Marine falls for a Tonkinese girl, and a Navy nurse finds her prejudices challenged by a French aristocrat.

Empire of the Sun
by J.G. Ballard
EMPIRE OF THE SUN, the basis of the eponymous Steven Spielberg film, tells the story of a young boy struggling to survive World War II in China. A prisoner in a Japanese concentration camp, he witnesses the bombing of Nagasaki and comes of age in a blighted new world.

by James Ellroy

In December 1941, Los Angeles is gripped by war fever and racial hatred. After the horrific murder of a Japanese family, three men and one woman are drawn into a political firestorm as America stands on the edge of war.

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