As the Nazi regime moved across Europe, it claimed territory like a plague of locusts. Vibrant cities and towns became desolate wastelands as the people were stripped of their freedom, their productivity, their communities and often their lives. When this ruinous destruction came upon the country of France, the people were initially paralyzed by shock. But out of the rubble rose a resistance, a group of hidden fighters, willing to sacrifice everything to save the land they loved.
In her novel, The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah tells the story of one family’s fight for freedom in France during World War II. The onset of the story introduces an elderly woman whose health is deteriorating. As she moves into an assisted living and leaves her home behind, she insists that her son bring her old trunk along. Inside are memories and secrets long held close. As she remembers, the story unfolds.
Still ravaged by loss from World War I and the death of their mother, Viann, her sister Isabelle and their father are a shattered family full of hurt and dysfunction. When theGermans take over France, their family is divided. Should they take action or assume a passive approach and hopefully avoid conflict? But as time passes and the suffering increases, they find themselves united as they individually step up to do their part to fight the evil among them. Their efforts range from creating false IDs to hiding Jewish children and undermining German propaganda. But the youngest daughter, Isabelle, became known as the Nightingale. As an attractive young woman, she was able to cross enemy lines easier than men. She smuggled downed airmen back to the English and Americans. For every choice, there was a consequence and each one paid dearly and not all survived.
While the story is fiction, it embodies the spirit and strength possessed by those who fought and died for freedom and for their fellow man. Amidst the harsh realities, it is full of beauty and hope that is sure to inspire. This is definitely the best fiction I have read in quite some time. Hannah uncovers a unique facet of the war and brings it to life with vivid detail. I found myself challenged to look at my own life a little differently. We are not at war. We are not forced to house the enemy under our roofs, but all around us, there are those who need us to rise up and be different. Making a difference for just one person, changes their world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or feels compelled by works of justice.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.