The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
‘They knew now what they didn’t know last winter: Life could get worse.’
Bring a box of tissues. There will be tears.
All the hype you’ve heard about this book is well deserved. The focus (if you don’t know) is the great hardship the women of World War II faced in France, after the German occupation. Most often, the heroic stories of bravery, sacrifice, and heartbreaking choices of these women remain untold.
But Kristin Hannah tells the story of two sisters as both choose their own path toward survival. Bold Isabelle joins the French Resistance and develops a plan to help downed Allied airmen escape to neutral Spain.
Timid Vianne, at first focuses on survival for herself and her daughter. Eventually she is drawn into sheltering Jewish children in a nearby abbey while forced to billet an SS officer in her home.
Although fiction, this story is drawn from true stories of real women (Andree de Jongh is one) and reveals the unspeakable suffering war brings to everyone in its path. Shining a light on heroic women during our World Wars has been a trend the last few years, but it’s one that shouldn’t stop anytime soon. I think there is a bottomless well out there.
From a craft perspective: The author sets the stage of the novel in first-person, using the frame storyliterary technique, telling a story within a story. She then shifts to third-person and moves the POV between the sisters. This gives us intimate insight into their greatest fears, and their greatest loves. The technique works really well here. And Kristin Hannah is definitely at the top when it comes to authors of Historical Fiction.
The book was optioned in 2015 by Netflix and is being adapted into a miniseries. But don’t wait to see it on TV before you read the book. Because as we all know, the book is always better than the movie.