Read about The Great War, both at the home front and in the trenches with these World War One historical fiction novels.
It was called the Great War and the War to End All Wars. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning. World War I is a fascinating subject, but not written about as often as World War II. But, there have been some amazing World War One historical fiction books that capture the heartbreak of the time.
I’ve gathered together some books that I loved and I know you will to if you’re looking to read a book set during this time period.
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Historical Fiction About World War I
I very much enjoyed this selection of World War I historical fiction books. You’ll find drama, romance, grief, espionage, and even mystery in these books. All will draw you in and transport you to a difficult time full of strong people.
I loved these books for many reasons and I hope you find some that you will love too!
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
This books takes you back to 1914 and the summer when conflict just started. Some people were worried about war, but most thought the conflict would go away soon. Folks in the small coastal town of Rye had no idea that they were in their last moments of peace for awhile.
The Summer Before the War takes us from an idyllic time to a time when the World War I becomes personal because refugees arrive and other citizens leave to go to war. And throughout this time, you’ll read the story of Beatrice, who comes to Rye to teach Latin (which shocks the town!) and to find her own way.
This book is perfect for readers who are fans of Downton Abbey and fans of classic British literature. It’s gentle, sometimes witty, and full of heart.
Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
Lost Roses was written by Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls. In fact, this book is part of a series and features the mother of one of the main characters of Lilac Girls. But, don’t let that put you off from reading this wonderful book if you haven’t read the previous one. Both books are wonderful, but both can be read as a stand-alone book or in any order.
In this book you’ll meet three main characters, Eliza Ferriday from New York, Sofya Streshnayva who is a member of the Russian aristocracy, and Varinka, a village girl who becomes a nanny for the Streshnayvas. These three women’s lives entwine in 1914 when the Great War is starting and the Russian imperial dynasty is beginning to fall.
As was true with Lilac Girls, you’ll love some characters and hate some characters. Kelly does not shy away from using unlikeable characters and I greatly appreciate that. This book was well-written, well-researched, and quite engrossing. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction and well as books about female friendships.
The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott
The Poppy Wife is a story of grief and a story of survival. It’s 1921 and Edie’s husband Francis is one of the many missing men who are presumed to be dead. But with no grave and so much uncertainty, she can have no closure. When she receives a mysterious photograph in the mail that appears to be of her missing husband, she has more questions that need answering.
You’ll also meet Harry, Francis’s brother, who fought alongside him in the war and was the only one of his brothers to survive. Now he travels to France to take pictures of gravesites in order to help grieving families find closure. Harry and Edie’s lives intertwine as they try to find out what happened to Francis.
This novel is beautiful and hearbreaking at times as Edie and Harry deal with what it means to survive the war and to grieve those who did not.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Where do I even begin with The Alice Network? First, you need to know that this was one of the best books I’ve read this year. It has everything, romance, intrigue, secrets, mystery, and a group of women spies called The Alice Network. Books like this are why I love historical fiction.
While this book has a dual timeline covering both the aftermath of World War II and World War I, a big portion of the story is about Eve Gardiner, a World War I spy as her secrets are revealed throughout the book.
You’ll follow Eve and Charlie, a young woman searching for her cousin who went missing during World War II, as they form an unlikely partnership to find the missing woman and heal from the the trauma of war and loss.
Pick up this book if you love spy stories or books about strong female characters.
The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell
This dual timeline story takes place in both the present day and during World War I in the war-torn Champagne Region of France. In the present day, grieving Rosalyn take a business trip to France. It’s a trip she dreads because of all the memories she made with husband before he died.
But while she was there, she learns of a story through letters of the people of region who had to take shelter in the underground champagne cellars because of unrelenting German attack during the war. It was a World War I story that I had never heard of that was both fascinating and heartbreaking.
While piecing together this story, Rosalyn finds herself and starts to heal. She takes courage from the many women of the region who came before her.
This book is perfect for readers who are fascinated by the vineyards of France or who love contemporary stories combined with historical stories.
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
A Duty to the Dead is the first book in the Bess Crawford historical mystery series. Bess is a World War I nurse who believes she has a duty to help people however she can.
In this first book, Bess is on leave from her nursing duties to recover from her own wounds. She had promised a dying soldier that she would deliver a message to his brother and once she is recovered, she sets out to do that. While on this mission, she finds out that the message wasn’t quite so simple and becomes embroiled in murder, intrigue, and a mystery to be solved.
If you enjoy historical mysteries or strong heroines, you will love this book. There are currently 11 books in this series, with the 12th book set to be released in July of 2021. So, if you love Bess, you’ll have plenty of chances to read about her adventures.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Just like Bess Crawford, Maisie Dobbs was a World War I nurse. This series starts out 10 years after the Armistice as Maisie embarks on a career as a private investigator. While this book does take place after the war, you’ll read many stories and memories of Maisie’s experiences during World War I and many of her investigations are linked to the war.
Maisie is a delightful heroine. She’s smart, compassionate, and hard working – just the type of person you want helping you piece together a troubling mystery.
In this first book of the series, Maisie Dobbs, she sets out on her first case which involves infidelity, but she soon finds out it’s about much, much more. And, she won’t stop investigating until she solves the mystery.
This is another great World War I book for mystery fans. So far, there are 15 books in the series with the 16th to be released in March of 2021.
Do you have any recommendations as to what I should read next?