The Nightingale: Exemplary Women of WWII

On our first day away on vacation, I was suffering from jet-lag and, thus, was up in the early hours of the morning. Thinking I was the only one of me and my parents that was awake, I was quietly humming to myself, laughing at whatever happened to be on imgur, when suddenly I heard sniffling. I got up and crept into my parents room, where I found my mom curled up around a book, tears streaming down her face. She registered I was there, said, “This book is so good,” and quickly waved me away. Now, my mom is not one to cry at books, let alone say the book is good while crying. I knew I had to read it.

nightingaleLearning there was a waiting list, and that the book was borrowed, I settled down in a local coffee shop to read. It took me just about four hours. When I was finished, all I could do was cry. But it wasn’t a “my world is over” cry – rather, it was a cleansing cry. A hopeful cry.

The Nightingale, Kristen Hannah’s newest novel, has been out for under six months and it already has an average rating of 4.5 on Goodreads (as of 7/2) and a 5-star average rating on Amazon.com. That alone tells you the pure wonder of this book.

The Nightingale follows the war story of two sisters living in France. It follows them as the Nazis invade their homes and their lives. The story is devastating and honest, but not without its moments of light.

Neither my mom nor I realized the full extent to which women were involved in World War II. You hear and read constantly about the men who were holding guns, but you rarely read about the secret wars women fought at home. The trials they had to face, how their lives drastically changed, and how they lived silently afterwards, not being as public as many men were. This is , of course, a work of fiction, but it is based in facts. The novel jumps from America to Paris to Carriveau and back again, following the timeline of WWII, and highlighting the realities of the people of France at that time.

Vianne and Isabelle are the heroes of the story. They sort of remind us of the sisters from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility – Vianne is the practical, law-abiding citizen who fears for her family’s safety, whereas Isabelle is the short-tempered, obstinate, and romantic younger sister who will fight however she can for what she believes is right. They engage in their own battles within the war, and with each other. Although the sisters seem to be utter opposites on the surface, they each prove to be just as strong as one another in their attempts to save France. They fight these private battles, alongside their fellow townspeople, all of whom have their own stories, their own battles. Jews, Christians, and the French alike work to undermine German rule while putting on the facade that they are doing nothing ‘wrong.’

We highly recommend this book for history-buffs and novel-lovers alike. It’s exceptionally well written, and exceptionally human, containing all the love and loss we experience in our lives.

Written by Wendy and Sarah Wanger

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