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Staff Picks Category: World War I

Midnight on the Marne by Sarah Adlakha []



An unlikely series of events repeats itself, giving one of the participants the opportunity to change the future by sacrificing his past. Wartime in occupied France is made difficult by rationing, persecution, and fear, particularly for French nurse (and spy) Marcelle Marchand and American soldier George Mountcastle. They are immediately drawn to each other, then separated by circumstance and the Great War. Following Germany’s victory, Marcelle and George reconnect, and live in France with their cobbled together family of survivors, including George’s comrade Philip and Marcelle’s sister Rosalie. Hiding their vegetable garden and black market activities from government agents and living as well as they can, they find happiness where possible. After they are caught and punished, George somehow finds himself once again at a critical point in the Battle of the Marne, several years earlier. George and Philip have spent many years contemplating what might have happened if a single decision had been made differently, and now George has the opportunity to find out.

Framed by the narrative of Marcelle’s daughter reading her journal many years later, readers will be drawn in by the details of an alternative post-World War I history, and also pleasantly set adrift by the conflicting information presented in the journal and the known details of Marcelle’s life and history. Offer this to fans of alternative history, war stories, and what-ifs.

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Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly []



Kelly is back with another epic tale of three overlapping women’s lives against the backdrop of history, this time a generation earlier (and starring the mother of one of her previous heroines) than 2017’s The Lilac Girls. The setting is World War I and the Russian Revolution; the stories are inspired by true events. New Yorker Eliza Ferriday returns home when her tour of Russia with her school friend Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs, is cut short by the outbreak of war in Europe. Sofya’s family retires to their country estate to wait out the troubles while Eliza works to find refuge and employment for displaced Russians in America. Sofya hires a local peasant girl, Varinka, to help with her small son, unaware of Varinka’s revolutionary connections and the danger they pose to her family. Kelly’s gift is bringing to life and to light history that is often untold, stories of women and families far away from the front yet deeply affected by the decisions of leaders and efforts of fighters.

Readers who couldn’t put down the author’s debut are advised to clear their calendars when they get their hands on this one. A good match for fans of historical fiction, Marie Benedict and Lisa See, and viewers of period dramas.

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