A story of two sisters living in German-occupied France during WWII, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale depicts women who moved beyond survival to actively aid the resistance movement.
The younger rebellious sister is not content to just survive the occupation and wants to do more to help the resistance, and she does. The older sister, who must also consider her daughter after her husband goes to war, focuses on survival, at first anyway.
The book begins with a flash forward to nearly present day, and my assumption of which sister was writing this section sometimes switched from being certain to unsure.
The narrative switches between the sisters’ perils, overlapping at several points, and occasionally moving back to the present day.
With the horrors depicted, not directly in the concentration camps here, but still the experience of neighbors and friends being rounded up and taken away, reading books such as this is an uncomfortable experience. But we read them anyway (or at least I do) not only to know the history and honor those who experienced these horrors, but also to look for the helpers. This book certainly highlights the efforts of women towards the resistance.
I found myself thinking what would I do; which sister would I be? I could see parts of myself in both sisters; I imagine most women can.
The first part of the book moved a bit slow for me, and the language, while telling a great story, did not leave me with many quotes I am dying to share…Minus this one, which is on the first page:
“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
However, the message, ending, and overall experience more than made up for these shortcomings, which admittedly are compared with a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
Truly, the emotion of this book’s ending is a level I cannot remember being equaled. Consider this a warning not to finish this book around people!
The story of The Nightingale is a valuable, must-read contribution to the WWII genre. I loved it and will remember it always.
As I make my way through WWII novels, I am now reading The Book Thief. I am moving towards a round-up post of the best from this genre? Which WWII novels would be on your must-read list?