Novels about heroism in war are usually about the men who fight; the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who face the enemy in battle. The women who suffer the horrors of war, who are often as heroic, if not more so, than the men, are often overlooked, or relegated to minor supporting roles.
Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale, though, tells the story of women and war in a way that is profound and unforgettable.
Viane Mauriac, and her 18-year-old sister, Isabella, are two French women who have to face the horror of World War 2, and the Nazi conquest of France, each in their own way. Head strong, and given to rash actions, Isabella joins the resistance and distinguishes herself as ‘The Nightingale,’ a patriot who rescues downed Allied pilots and spirits them into Spain right under the noses of the German army. Viane, in the meantime, must keep her daughter, Sophia safe from the German occupiers who rule with a degree of brutality that is beyond her comprehension. Even Beck, the Wehrmacht officer who choses her home as his garrison, and seems to show her consideration, is in the end a conqueror who will follow his orders, even when he doesn’t particularly agree with them.
Both women learn just how far they will go to survive, and what really has meaning for them as the war rages on. This is one war story that you’re not likely to forget after you read it. But, read it you should.
I received this book as a gift, and once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. At the end, my eyes were wet with sadness and with pride in the strength of the human spirit that enables humans to rise above selfishness and reach a level of selflessness.
I give this book five stars.