Suggestions for historical fiction recent European historyMy wife has a coworker whose daughter is a sophomore in HS, apparently not very motivated.  She needs to read history-related books, can...

Suggestions for historical fiction recent European history

My wife has a coworker whose daughter is a sophomore in HS, apparently not very motivated.  She needs to read history-related books, can be fiction, for extra credit.  They asked me, but I've never taught this subject to high schoolers.

Can anyone suggest books (fiction or nonfiction) on European history (19th or 20th century) that might be appealing to a kid like that?

Thanks in advance.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not recent, but a classic of classics is Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" which opens with the ever-famous lines,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,...

This novel is the poignant tale of Sydney Carton who sacrifices his life for the love of a woman--no female cannot be untouched by Dickens' narrative set against the French Revolution.

High school students who read this novel (mostly1oth graders, too) loved it.  However, they complained at first because the plot does not become "exciting" at first, and Dickens--uncharacteristically--does not thoroughly develop many of his characters.  Those who continued to read after first complaining did change their minds.  In fact, one girl who whined through the first 100 pages, declared later, "this is the best book!"  So, the girl may need some encouraging in reading Dickens's classic at first, but she will moved by the romantic elements and touched by the ending, coming away enriched.

Another poignant book that many high school girls enjoy is "The Diary of Anne Frank."  Since Anne is herself a teen in this autobiography, girls relate well to her feelings as a burgeoning woman, who is restricted in her life as she hides from the Nazis in Amsterdam.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

She should definitely read Night by Elie Wiesel if she has not already done so.  As I'm sure you know, it follows a 14-year-old boy through his Holocaust experience.  I have had several students tell me that it is the only required reading that they have completed while in high school.

Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera is another good pick. While it does, of course, include a Gothic style, Leroux give a detailed description of the Paris Opera House, culture from the 19th century, and social class issues.  Many of my students have enjoyed this book.


accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am a big fan of postcolonial literature and exploring the colonial enterprise through fiction, so if this appeals you might want to suggest works such as Heart of Darkness, Poisonwood Bible, Things Fall Apart, The Colour Purple and Beloved. Each are set in a specific period of time and have lots to say about colonialism in its manifold forms.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Have her try some biographies. Princess Diana's story might interest her. Or maybe the mystery surrounding the Romanovs and Anastasia of Russia. Or the great love story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor--he gave up the throne of England for the woman he loved. I'd say start with bios.