Thursday, February 9, 2023

Mini Reviews: Historical Fiction Edition

Today I'm sharing two historical fiction novels - one being a new release and the other is one that has been on my bookshelf for quite awhile and instantly became one of my favorites. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Code Name Sapphire by Pan Jenoff
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 7, 2023
Publisher: Park Row
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Lost Girls of Paris and   
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 


Goodreads says, "A woman must rescue her cousin's family from a train bound for Auschwitz in this riveting tale of bravery and resistance, from the bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris 1942Hannah Martel has narrowly escaped Nazi Germany after her fiancé was killed in a pogrom. When her ship bound for America is turned away at port, she has nowhere to go but to her cousin Lily, who lives with her family in Brussels. Fearful for her life, Hannah is desperate to get out of occupied Europe. But with no safe way to leave, she must return to the dangerous underground work she thought she had left behind. Seeking help, Hannah joins the Sapphire Line, a secret resistance network led by a mysterious woman named Micheline and her enigmatic brother Mateo. But when a grave mistake causes Lily’s family to be arrested and slated for deportation to Auschwitz, Hannah finds herself torn between her loyalties. How much is Hannah willing to sacrifice to save the people she loves? Inspired by incredible true stories of courage and sacrifice, Code Name Sapphire is a powerful novel about love, family and the unshakable resilience of women in even the hardest of times."



Hannah Martel and her fiancé, Issac, printed satiric cartoons from an underground newspaper in Berlin in 1942. Unfortunately, Issac is killed by Nazis and this leaves Hannah on the run. She boards a ship bound for America, but the ship isn't allowed entrance and it returns to Europe. Hannah finds solace at her cousin Lily's in Brussels and while there she learns about the resistance. The Sapphire Line, a resistance group, is run by Micheline and even though Hannah would love to be out of Europe, she realizes that if she can't be in America, she will help. Things get very dangerous for Lily's family and this leaves Hannah in a tough spot. Does she have what it takes to save them? Pam Jenoff's Code Name Sapphire is based on real-life events and is a well-researched historical novel that fans of the time period will appreciate.

Jenoff is known for her memorable WWII novels and this one is no different. It tugged on my heartstrings and while Code Name Sapphire didn't pack the emotional punch like her other novels, it was still a moving read and a reminder of how women and courageous people have stepped up to the plate time and time again. It's inspiring.


The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 2, 2010
Publisher: Atria
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 


Goodreads says, "When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.  Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk."




Lavinia and her family are aboard a ship to take them from Ireland to America. Tragedy strikes on the ship and Lavinia's parents die. All she has left is her brother, but she is separated from him when the ship's captain takes Lavinia back to his plantation to make her an indentured servant. She is just seven years old, so she needs a lot of support and finds a family in the slaves at the plantation, Tall Oaks. Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, reluctantly takes Lavinia under her care and before Lavinia knows it, she feels a sense of family in Mama Mae, Papa George, Ben, Uncle Jacob, and the other slaves. As the years go by, this creates some difficulty for Lavinia as she tends to straddle both worlds: the kitchen house with the slaves and the big house with the other white people. To make matters more complicated, Martha, the lady of the house, is struggling as she is an addict, and takes to Lavinia and enjoys her company. Then there's Rankin, the overseer, who is a horribly cruel man making problems for all the slaves and after the master's son, Marshall, endures various forms of trauma, becomes Rankin's sidekick. With the captain gone for long periods of time and Martha incapacitated, Rankin runs the plantation. Cue the drama. Even though The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom could be very melodramatic at times, it was still a hard hitting historical novel that felt more realistic than Gone with the Wind. It carried an emotional punch that will stay with me.

It's hard to tackle The Kitchen House in such a brief review as it's a sweeping family saga that covers a lot. It follows Lavinia's journey through the years and you can't help but root for her. Alternate chapters are narrated by Belle and I thought it was done very well. Grissom covers some upsetting topics, but does it in a way that is respectful. If you enjoy hard hitting historical novels and haven't checked out The Kitchen House yet, please do so! I am mad I didn't pick it up sooner as it is one of my favorite historical novels I've read in quite awhile. I can't wait to read more from Grissom in the future.

So, have you read these two novels? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. WWII historical fiction is something I'll always gravitate towards, but the setting of The Kitchen House is really unique. I remember enjoying that story.

    1. Yes! It definitely took me by surprise. I wish I read it sooner! Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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