When it came out in spring 2017, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See—about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II—was a an instant bestseller, eventually winning the Pulitzer Prize. In case you missed it, the novel has been adapted into a limited series for Netflix, which is set to premiere November 2. If you loved Doerr’s deeply moving work and are eagerly awaiting the Mark Ruffalo- and Hugh Laurie-led show, pick up one of these similar books in the meantime.
8 Books Like ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ to Read Before Watching the Netflix Series Next Month
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In a small rural village in Chechnya, 8-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father and set fire to her home. When their neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will change their lives—to seek refuge at an abandoned hospital with one remaining doctor, Sonja, who has no desire to take on the additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five days, the three uncover connections that weave together their pasts—connections that will unexpectedly decide their fate.
When Irène Némirovsky, a French writer of Ukrainian-Jewish heritage, began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. She planned to write a five-novel series, but in 1942 was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she was killed. Published for the first time in 2004, Suite Française begins in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940, as Parisians flee the city. Moving to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy.
Lighter in tone than the other titles on this list, Benioff’s (who co-created Game of Thrones) 2009 novel tells the darkly comedic story of two young men coming of age during WWII. During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, the two are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous task: to secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
It’s the spring of 1939 in Poland and the threat of war is growing closer. Even so, three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, talking about new babies and romances around the Seder table rather than the horrors overtaking Europe. Eventually, one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent and others struggle to escape certain death by working grueling hours or by hiding as gentiles. Georgia Hunter’s 2017 novel, which is set to be made into a limited series for Hulu, is about one family relying on hope, ingenuity and inner strength to persevere in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moments.
If you prefer nonfiction, you’ll fly through this unbelievable true story about World War II hero Louis Zamperini. As a kid, Zamperini was something of a delinquent, breaking into houses and brawling. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, and his talent carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war came, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight and an almost three-year stint in Japanese POW camps. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini fought desperation with ingenuity, and his story is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.
Zusak’s (Bridge of Clay) 2005 novel follows Liesel Meminger, a 10-year-old girl in Nazi Germany who, following the death of her brother, is sent to live with foster parents—who are also secretly housing a Jewish man named Max—who opens her eyes to both the power of words amidst the chaos and loss surrounding her.
Lucien is an architect in 1940s Paris who has just accepted a commission that will make him a lot of money—if it doesn’t get him killed first. His mission? To design a secret hiding place for a Jewish man that will be indetectable to even the most determined German officer. Soon, Lucien is hiding more people and saving lives, but when one of his hideouts fails horribly, and the task becomes much more personal, he can no longer ignore what's at stake.
In Berlin at the height of the war, Sigrid is, by all outward appearances, the perfect German soldier’s wife. She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can and dutifully cares for her mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific acts of the regime. But beneath the surface, she dreams of her former Jewish lover and struggles to reconcile her husband’s work. She soon finds herself caught between what’s right and what’s wrong, and what falls somewhere in between the two.