I’ve had a lucky streak with the past ten or so books I’ve read, and I’m getting used to saying, “this is one of the best books I’ve ever read,” but really – The Nightingale really is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It has everything the perfect story needs – love, war, intrigue, action, all wrapped up in a nice little package with a WWII bow.
The Nightingale is the story of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, both on their own challenging path. Let me clarify, I have no interest in war history (fiction or non), and this book doesn’t conflict with that. It is a love story, through and through. Vianne is a young woman living with her husband and young daughter, when her husband is called to fight in the war that has just broken out. She is left to fend for herself against hunger, cold, trauma, loss and the violence that occurs in her small home at the hands of the Nazis. At the same time, her rebellious 18-year-old sister fights in other, more direct ways, finally finding an outlet for her patriotism, her anger, and her relentlessly brave spirit.
I read this one on the Kindle, and had to painstakingly watch the “percentage read” climb much too quickly, dreading the finish of this amazing book. The ending was so incredibly strong, taking me on a jarring emotional journey and leaving me crying in Starbucks. Sometimes books can have a strong crescendo, then fall flat – that was definitely not the case with The Nightingale.
While this book is fiction, it is a mirror to the myriad stories that fill our history books. At times the book is shocking and hard to stomach, but is a witness to the atrocities people endured during the war. We all have the images of people suffering in concentration camps burned into our psyches; we’ve seen the photos, heard the recounted tales. The Nightingale shines a crucial light on an often untold story of war: the women. She breathes life into the memory of these unsung heroes just long enough for us to fall in love with them, champion them, and finally, celebrate them as the impossibly brave war heroes they were.
Buy this book, read it, then gift it. It is a time-capsule of human tenacity, courage, and boundless love.