But I must approach books as more of an intellectual pursuit than an emotional one because I can only recall shedding a tear with four books over the years. Interestingly, three of them now have been World War II stories. (Don’t even think about the miniseries Band of Brothers. It wrecks me every time.) I don’t think of myself as a war buff, but there’s something about the stories surrounding every aspect of World War II that draws me in.
The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and their incredible feats of courage and daring required to survive in Occupied France for so many years.
Vianne is married and while her husband is away fighting (and is ultimately captured and sentenced to a POW camp), she is forced to exist with two consecutive German officers billeted in her home. Trying to survive the depredations and sacrifices to keep her daughter safe is almost more than she can manage.
Her younger sister, Isabelle, is a firebrand and is forever in trouble. To keep from saying or doing anything to endanger her sister’s family, she runs away and joins the resistance. She end up creating an escape route network to get downed RAF and American pilots out of the country and back into the war, a task that results in some 27 covert journeys on foot across the Pyrenees.
I obviously don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on in the book world because this incredible novel is Kristin Hannah’s 22nd work, and I had never heard of her before. She has done wonderfully in-depth research for this story, yet I never felt I was being beaten over the head with encyclopedic background. For 565 pages, it remained all about the story. And it was a definite page-turner.
If you like historical fiction, war fiction, women’s stories, tales of daring and incredible survival, you owe it to yourself to give The Nightingale a read.