The Nightingale is a beautifully written account of WWII France - a broken family, German occupation and survival. This is my first time reading Kristin Hannah’s work, and I was more than pleased. From the beginning, it was difficult to put this book down.
The epic opens with this wonderful line - “In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are”. Sisters Vianne and Isabelle have lived very different lives - one with love and comfort, the other alone and impetuous. Each gets caught up in their own stories of survival when the Germans march in to occupy France. The book follows these sisters and their different paths in a tale that describes the women’s war, heartbreaking loss and the will to live.
Living in a small village, Vianne’s husband and those of all the town’s women, has gone to war. The women must learn to protect their children and survive the Nazi takeover, made more miserable when a Nazi officer requisitions Vianne’s home. There is little food and fuel, the winters are brutally cold and the Nazis start rounding up Jews and dissenters. Vianne must make impossible decisions for herself, her children, sister and friend. Young Isabelle has already experienced loss and loneliness, and yearns to make a difference. Impulsively joining the Resistance, we see her grow as a woman, brave Nazi brutality, and yet doesn’t seem to harden to love.
Eloquently described bravery, fear and blind spirit make up each of Hannah’s characters. We feel their pain, worry and extraordinary courage as the story develops, and I loved every minute of it. I learned more about the struggles of the women left behind to fend for themselves and their children, and their enduring strength even when they didn’t believe they could go on.
Vickie’s rating: 5 stars