After All the Light We Cannot See [Doerr], The Bone Tree [Iles], and Wolf in Winter [Connolly], a SANE person would pick up a Chick Lit beach read. Obviously I am not SANE, because I did not go that direction. However, in my defense, The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah is about two CHICKS…I mean WOMEN.
The novel begins in 1995 in the United States with an invitation, and then catapaults the reader back to the days before the invasion of France by the Nazis.
Two sisters, ten years apart in age, shoved away by their father after their mother’s death grow up to face the world and the war in decidedly different ways. Vianne bids farewell to her husband as he goes to fight, desperately trying to protect her young daughter Sophie, trying to keep her head down as the Nazis invade their town, an officer billeted in her home, and the insidious way the evil forces her to behave just to survive.
Isabelle, eighteen and dismissed from yet another boarding school, pushes back against the invaders making more and more decisions that place her sister, niece, and herself in the cross hairs of the Germans. Two sisters, passive and aggressive, but both as it turns out true to their sire name ‘Rossignol’ which means ‘nightingale’. While one becomes the path out of France for downed Ally pilots, the other becomes the savior of Jewish children and their father, the ‘nightingale’ who abandoned his daughters physically and emotionally, martyrs himself to save the one he can.
Set in World War II France, some of the scenes for example Isabelle’s flight from Paris will remind those who have just read All the Light We Cannot See of Marie-Laure and her father’s journey to St. Malo. In fact, while reading that section, I had the feeling the characters could be brushing shoulders in their flight.
You often hear the phrase, especially from people who have ‘gone through the fire’, “We did what we had to do.” So this quote from the book sums it up for me:
“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
― Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale
I have tried not to ‘SPOIL” the book, because it is one I think everyone should read.
Not light reading, not without tears, but definitely worth reading.