The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a story of two women in war. It is also a tale of a country torn in two.
The Nightingale Plot (No Spoilers)
It happened quickly. On May 9, 1940, life in France was normal. People shared carafes of wine in the cafés of Paris and kids laughed among the vineyards of the Loire Valley on their way to school. Sure, the men were gone. They were off mobilizing for a possible war against the Germans, but the threat seemed far away.
Then came May 10, 1940. The Germans attacked and the French army was overwhelmed. There was chaos as people fled from Paris, walking hundreds of miles and plucking the produce from the crops and fields of the farmers during their flight through the Loire Valley to…nowhere. There was nowhere to go. The Occupation had begun.
Two sisters in the Loire Valley would face the Nazi Occupation in two very different ways. The Nightingale follows their stories and consistently and constantly challenges the reader to ask what she might do if left to fend for herself against the Nazis. With most French men in prisoner of war camps, the war for French women became one of survival and resistance.
I was often bothered by the sometimes spineless actions of some of the characters. BUT I think the reader is supposed to want to scream at the characters. That’s the benefit of hindsight. We now know what people should have done during WWII. The question of whether you, the reader, would have done the right thing dangles over this novel in the most troubling and inspiring of ways.
Who Should Read This Novel
I recommend The Nightingale to anyone who loves historical fiction and to anyone who has questioned what she would have done when confronted with the realities of survival during the Nazi Occupation of WWII.
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My Personal Connection to The Nightingale
This is the book that started my obsession with historical fiction and with the Loire Valley. I have read The Nightingale three times (if you count listening twice on Audible), and I have traveled to the Loire Valley multiple times. I am fascinated with the way that the Loire and Cher rivers – and the arbitrary demarkation line – divided this region into two, separating “Free France” from Occupied France and slicing farmlands, school districts, towns and families in two.
There is even a chateau that was divided in two by the demarcation line! The front entrance in Occupied France and the back entrance in Free France, the resistance used the chateau to smuggle people right out of the occupied zone! Check out more about Chateau de Chenonceau here.
This book is the work of fiction that has influenced my life more than any other, inspiring me to write my own historical-fiction novel based in the Loire Valley. If my novel is half as compelling as The Nightingale, I will consider it a success.
About the Author of The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, Winter Garden, Night Road, and Firefly Lane.
Her novel, The Nightingale, has been published in 43 languages and is currently in movie production at TriStar Pictures, which also optioned her novel, The Great Alone. Her novel, Home Front has been optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to direct.
Kristin is a former lawyer-turned writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Her novel, Firefly Lane, became a runaway bestseller in 2009, a touchstone novel that brought women together, and The Nightingale, in 2015 was voted a best book of the year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, iTunes, Library Journal, Paste, The Wall Street Journal and The Week. Additionally, the novel won the coveted Goodreads and People’s Choice Awards. The audiobook of The Nightingale won the Audiobook of the Year Award in the fiction category.
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