There are numerous elements at play in this page-turner novel about Nazi occupied France. In the tradition of All the Light We Cannot See and Suite Francaise we become immersed in the lives of ordinary French citizens who do extraordinary things when faced with horrifying challenges. That’s not to say that The Nightingale is as well written as the other two (All the Light We Cannot See was just announced as winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature), but it’s an interesting story and a good, easy read.
The Nightingale is the story of two sisters. They are already damaged before the war because of the loss of their mother when the sisters were young and the cold rejection of their father who sends them to live in the country. The sisters are quite different. Vianne, the older sister, is married and the mother of a young daughter when her husband joins the war. Because there is an airfield nearby, the Nazis invade Vianne’s quiet village and requisition her home, forcing her and her daughter to live with a German officer. With danger escalating all around and food and hope disappearing, Vianne is faced with difficult decisions.
The younger sister, Isabelle, is rebellious and looking for a way to aid the French Resistance. She finds her niche in the most daring and dangerous way. She risks her life over and over to lead downed British and American pilots to safety. However, even in these trying times and circumstances, love finds a way to bloom for Isabelle and a fellow rebel. For Vianne, too, life continues in spite of adversity as her daughter grows and matures and — like her mother and aunt — also faces difficult decisions. Each sister is brave in different ways, and each faces risks in different ways whether it’s trying to help Jewish friends go undetected or Allied pilots escape to return to the war.
Vianne and Isabelle are survivors, and they manage it with grace and passion. There are unexpected twists and surprises in this tale of the women’s war, a part of the enormous panorama of World War II that we don’t always read about.
— Lynn Lofton, firstname.lastname@example.org
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