The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Find in catalogI wasn’t sure I was ready for yet another World War II novel, but this one promised to be different. Fascinated by the tales of women in the resistance, Kristin Hannah, a prolific Bainbridge Island romance writer, has spun a tale of two French sisters living through the Nazi occupation.  It’s recommended as this year’s Best Historical Fiction by Goodreads, the online book community, with thousands of teary eyed rave reviews.

Vianne, the elder sister, is married with a young daughter and lives in a rural village. Her husband is away at the Front, her home is requisitioned to house a German captain, her best friend is Jewish.  Through Vianne’s story, we see the terrible common themes of quiet sacrifice and choices made by women and refugees everywhere, regardless of which war or occupation.  Hannah’s portrayal of the gradual transitions to increasing hardships, indignities, and violations by the Nazis and collaborators, was particularly effective.

The younger sister’s is a different story. At the time of the German invasion, Isabelle has already been established as a defiant and rebellious teenager – almost to the point of caricature.  She eventually is able to expend her rage and energy into a risky, difficult role within the French Resistance and that seems a good place for her.  It was difficult for me to like her character, and I wondered if she could have ever lived successfully in peacetime.

Though marred somewhat by sentimentality and careless research, “The Nightingale” is an ambitious, respectful story of the women’s side of war.  I did enjoy the book.  It just could have been so much more. – Connie Bennett, Library Director

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