History at your Fingertips – A Book Haul

Hello my lovely readers! So typically I never buy enough of anything at once to consider it a ‘haul’. When I go to LUSH I typically buy a bath bomb or two and run out of there before I can spend more than $20 dollars. I’m the same way with make-up so it’s usually pretty bland to show any sort of shopping for those items either. Sometimes I get carried away in Bath & Body Works but considering it’s all I seem to get gifted from extended family these days I don’t think I have to walk into that store for another two years with the stash I currently have. The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t often have any sort of spectacular item hauls to share and recommend. Today is an exception!

Last weekend after my mom so kindly shared yet another BlogTO post onto my Facebook wall I decided to go check out the clearance book sale that was being put on by Toronto’s Public Library. I almost didn’t go because after hearing about long lineups (over an hour) on Thursday  I figured it wouldn’t be worth my time on Saturday (the last day of the sale). I’m quite happy that I changed my mind and decided to go exploring because even though the sale was very much depleted I came out with four new to me books, all for the price of $1.50. Yep, you read that right one dollar and fifty cents! The three soft covers cost me a dollar combined and the hard cover made up the last fifty cents.

By complete happenstance and my own personal taste, all four of these books have a common thread: there’s mention of the first or second world war in their descriptions. I’m a bit of a history fanatic in general but WWI and WWII are my personal top interests of study. This mostly comes from the exceptional educational trip I took to Europe in my senior year of high school where I got to visit graveyards, battle sites, and other historic monuments from the two wars, while also joining in local celebrations in Holland to celebrate the 65th anniversary of VE Day in Europe. We heard from holocaust survivors, veterans, and many locals who were liberated by ally soldiers (including our Canadian boys). A one point I even spoke to a man whose village had been liberated by the Nova Scotia which is the regiment my great uncle Curtis was a part of. That trip is an experience that has really stuck with me over the years and it only drove my long existing love of history forward further.

Now onto the books!

The book I’m most excited about is A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. It follows the stories of the 230 French women that were taken to Auschwitz in 1943 for their rebellion against Nazi occupation. After spending so much of my education hearing about men’s involvement in history, I’m always thrilled to read the stories of women. I swear I’ve had this book in my hands at Chapters at least three times and I’ve always put it down and went with something else for whatever reason. When I was at the book sale I did a second sweep through of the tables just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and sure enough someone had set this one back down and I quickly snatched it up. The book retails for $19.62 at Chapters so to grab this gently read copy for less than 40 cents was a steal. I flipped through the book a little to find there are pictures included amongst the narrative and they’re really quite lovely.

The second World War II book I picked up was actually a translation. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky is a remarkably unique novel which comes in in two parts. There were supposed to be five parts but Némirovsky was a Jewish woman who had been arrested and deported to Auschwitz in 1942 so the works remained unfinished. The first part, which I have just begun reading, follows the evacuation of Paris and an abundance of families and individuals who all become intertwined during this exit. The second part shifts to an occupied village in which new characters navigate their new and difficult situation amongst the Nazi soldiers. What intrigues me most about this book is that Némirovsky clearly had the lived experience so this is not just a historical fiction crafted from history books, it’s one from the eyes of a woman who was there.

The most beat up of the four books and another World War II feature is The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalia. It’s a bit rough around the edges and there’s a few minor tears but nothing to cry about. This one is a historical fiction that follows Franz Adler, an Austrian Jew, and his family as they escape Nazi occupation and make their way to Shanghai. I have read other books and heard various stories of individuals fleeing Nazi occupation but I’ve never come across one that talks about going East to Asia. In fact, I wasn’t really aware that this had even happened until I picked up and read the synopsis of this novel. I’m excited to see how this story plays out differently than the others I have read.

Finally, the last of the four books is the one hard cover and it is the only book to feature World War I instead of WWII. I picked up Villa America by Liza Klaussmann after reading the line “They packed up their children and moved to the South of France, where they immediately fell in with a group of expats, including Hemingway, Picasso, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald” in the summary.It reminded me of the film Midnight in Paris which I thoroughly enjoyed so why not?

Maybe down the line I’ll get back to you all on what I actually thought of these finds. I’ve only just begun reading Suite Française and I’m sort of overwhelmed by the cast of characters but I’m going to keep pushing through. I’ve hit a rather sporadic moment in my reading this month where I have many books on the go (this is unusual for me) so who knows when I’ll get around to picking up the others. I did just finish reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard which I thought was fantastic so if you’re looking for a young adult series to pick up I sincerely recommend it, it’s a step up on Hunger Games in terms of teenage dystopian heroines in my opinion. What about you? What are you reading? Pick up any new books lately? I’m always looking for recommendations (as I am with most things) so throw them my way!

You may also like


  1. I love these pictures! Also, LUSH is LIFE. It’s dangerous there, financially haha.

    I just finished the Tearling series recently. It was amaaaaazing!

    1. LUSH is so dangerous. I almost had a job there (so close) and I swear I was just doing it for the discount. Full price hurts.
      I also just finished the Tearling! I didn’t love how they ended it but overall one of my favourite series, I absolutely devoured those books. I think I read the last one in three sittings because I couldn’t put it down haha.

Leave a Reply