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Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

August 28, 2019

 

Two French sisters as different as the sun and the moon will find a way to survive and resist the evils of the Nazi invasion and conquering of France. A tale that has been told before but never in a more compelling manner. The narrative begins 56 years after the start of WWII. Living on the Oregon coast, one of the sisters, now an older, ailing woman, faces her mortality by deciding to remember and make peace with the events of her past. We do not know which sister it is, but we do know that after the war she chose to "turn the page" and leave the past behind. She kept her life a secret, burying it from her family and from her son. This is a tale of survival and the horrors and destruction of war. Forced to come to terms with who they are and what they believe, each will sister take a different path. One will resist by protecting those she loves in passive resistance and one who will resist by becoming a dangerous operative in La Résistance Française, the French resistance movement. Vianne, with a young daughter and her husband a prisoner of war will be forced to billet a Nazi officer in her village home, placing her in a precarious position not only with the Nazis but with her neighbors who are more than willing to condemn her for fraternizing with the enemy. The younger, bitter Isabelle carries a grudge on her shoulders, a rebel before the war, she will risk her life leading downed Allied pilots safely over the Pyrenees and out of France. The sisters' relationship with each other is fraught with antagonism and blame. The death of their mother and the indifference of their father has resulted in two personalities unable to find common ground. They are held together by a thread of love, tenuous at best. Each will be tested numerous times as they struggle to do what she believes is the better way to respond to the evil that confronts them. This is a beautifully woven story that will mesmerize and captivate the reader. You will not be able to put it down.

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