The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah may be my favorite novel of 2015… and yes, I realize it’s only February. It’s just that good.
The setting is World War II, Nazi-occupied France. The story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and how they each respond in times of great challenge. Their parallel stories are as different as their personalities, but are just as suspenseful, complicated, and emotional. Although The Nightingale is considered fiction, it is firmly planted in well-researched truth. Isabelle’s character is based on the late Andrée de Jongh (1916-2007), an amazing woman who repeatedly risked her life helping British and American servicemen escape on foot from Nazi-occupied Belgium and France.
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
The Nightingale offers a story of women surviving in unthinkable circumstances – the underestimated gender finding a way to take action. It shows readers that at times protectiveness requires dangerous risks, fear often proceeds acts of bravery, and those who may appear weak can indeed possess incredible strength. I didn’t want this book to end because it’s not just about the ravages of war, it’s also about love, life, and rebellious courage. These women, who had everything (and everyone) to lose, put it all on the line to help others.
Most of us wouldn’t. But which is worst: The fear of the risk or the fear of letting children grow up in a world where good people do nothing to stop evil? I cannot recommend this book highly enough.