Sunday, September 20, 2015

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This One was a Hard One

Books regarding World War II and the Holocaust Always Get Me


This isn't my first rodeo and I have read many books that take place during World War II and have material related to the Holocaust. As a young girl, I read the Diary of Anne Frank and in fact, I am watching my own ten year old reading it right now. 

There's been plenty of books since with this as a general theme of the plot, or a backdrop. There would be too many to list here or refer to previous reviews. That being said, for me, what made this one a little different was that it didn't focus on just the Jewish people but on the citizens of France that were impacted by the way. What is especially interesting is that most of this book is from the perspective of heroic women who were forced to make difficult decisions to save their families and their communities.

The story is a recollection from the past, as a older woman is about to pack up the last of her belongings in a home that she has lived in for the past fifty years, as she is moving to an apartment in a senior community. As she is in her attic, she comes across the trunk that holds memories she has kept at bay, and part of her life that her only son does not know about. . .

So begins the tale of two sisters in France that starts a little before the Nazi invasion. They are as different as can be. Vianne lives with her husband and small daughter is the countryside. Its is an idyllic life that changes dramatically as the Nazis threaten to invade. Vianne's husband goes off to fight in the war and soon disappears as many of the men do. Vianne has always been a rule follower, and tries to keep "under the radar" as soon the Nazis invade and take over their village due to a nearby airfield that is needed for strategic purposes.

Isabelle is the rebel, always questioning authority. At the beginning of the book she is once again being kicked out of another boarding school and seems to be more interested in romance than learning anything. Once the Nazis broach France's borders, she begins to look for ways to fight them.

Without giving up anything in terms of the book, both sisters end up having to face difficult decisions. Some heroic measures come with more infamy and others are quieter acts of courage that also save lives. Neither woman is spared the brutal impact of war and their lives are never the same.

This book really is a wonderful epic journey that also remind us that everyone has a story to tell but sometimes it is difficult to remember. This older woman, who from her son's perspective, was a mild mannered mother who was not much more than a mother and wife, has a rich history that she has kept a secret for over fifty years.

What makes this book difficult is the brutal scenes and imagery of concentration camps and misery that are just hard to deal with. That being said this is a beautiful book and I would still recommend it. I'm still thinking about it two weeks after I completed it so it was a powerful story.

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