“In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.”
Some books stick with you for a lifetime and The Nightingale will be one for me. Kristin Hannah brings to life the story of two sisters living in France during World War II. Vianne is married with a daughter (Sophie) living in the countryside and Isabelle is a very young woman living in Paris with their father after getting kicked out of boarding school – again.
This book was the April book for a book club I’m part of. This is the first of Hannah’s books that I’ve read, but I’ve added more to my to-read book since. In The Nightingale, Hannah focuses on the sliver of the war by telling the story of two women. While fictional, you come to realize there are millions of stories from World War II and they all need to be told.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre and I’ve read several historical fiction books set in World War II. I love when I stumble upon an angle that hasn’t been covered much yet like Sarah’s Key by Tatiana deRosnay (about France giving up their Jews to Germany) and The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow (about a company making parachute fabric during the war). The Nightingale covers the French Resistance and how some French tried to survive under the German siege.
Isabelle’s path takes her to the French Resistance as she helps downed Allied airman. Vianne’s fight is in her home trying to stay alive for her and her daughter while having to host a German soldier in her home. Her husband is off fighting for France. What lines would you cross to survive? How much would you sacrifice for your children? Other people’s children?
I would recommend this book to any mature high school student or adult. It does not skirt around some of the atrocities of the war, although Hannah does paint at least one German soldier in a positive light – not all of them bought fully into what was going on.
This is also a perfect book club book. It may seem long, but it is worth the read.