The Nightingale is a historical fiction novel that plays off in German occupied France, during WWII. World War 2 is one of my favourite topics to read about in literature and I’m happy to say that I’ve found yet another WWII historical fiction novel I absolutely loved.
It starts off in 1995 when an elderly lady gets an invitation to an event that would celebrate WWII heroes. This woman starts reminiscing about her time during WWII and this is where we start learning the story of two remarkable and resilient women, who find themselves and the strength to survive this horrible time in human history.
Vianne Mauriac is a teacher, who lives with her husband and daughter in the French countryside. She and her sister, Isabelle, lost their mother at a very young age. Their father, who came home from WWI a damaged man, abandoned the two of them to be raised by someone else. Vianne married Antoine soon after, but Isabelle is the one who had the hardest time accepting her father’s rejection. Vianne saw her as stubborn and rebellious, although it would seem it is all to get the attention of her father.
Vianne’s perfect country side life with her husband, daughter Sophie and best friend Rachel, living next door, is soon to come to an end when their husbands are sent to the front to fight. With Germany slowly occupying France and Antoine gone, Isabelle is sent by her father to stay with Vianne and her daughter.
There is a line in the book that goes “In love we find out who we want to be, in war we find out who we are”. Vianne, nothing like Isabelle, choose to live quietly and inconspicuously under the Germans, if only to protect her family, while Isabelle’s rebellious nature might do the opposite. Especially with a German soldier billeting with them, they start realizing they are nowhere safe anymore. Germans living with them, bombs dropping and danger everywhere, yet Isabelle chose to join the Resistance. When Vianne’s best friend Rachel, a Jew, is taken away and she has to take care of her son, Vianne learns her strength as a woman and what she would do to protect her family and those she loved. The same with Isabelle, who goes off to Paris to help Allied pilots escape.
Both these women’s bravery and strength along with the history of what happened in German occupied France, very realistically portrayed, is the heart of the novel. This novel is the story of a woman’s role in the war. A story about love and survival and is a tribute to all those women, whether they survived or not, that had to fight (in whatever way) for their family, those they loved and for what is right. The Nightingale was an inspiring and emotional read that I absolutely loved.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Panmacmillan SA, for review consideration