I have heard a lot about Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale, and I have read a lot of World War II historical fiction lately (plus I’m almost done with with book #2 in the Chaos Walking series, which is basically “Nazis on another planet”), and I think a combination of those factors led me to enjoy this less than I could have otherwise.
“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
The Nightingale follows two sisters in occupied France during World War II. Vianne’s husband has gone off to fight, leaving her with a young daughter and eventually, a German soldier billeted in her house. Her younger, wild-child sister Isabelle has returned home after a disaster at her boarding school, and feels determined to do something about the atrocities occurring before her eyes. We watch them both lose friends and family, suffer emotionally and physically, and do what they can in their own ways to help others.
Hannah does a wonderful job of giving the reader a view into these women’s world — too good, as I had to keep setting it down and taking a breather during the rougher parts. But it’s a very similar book — both in setting and in storyline — to The Girl You Left Behind, and I think I liked the writing and the characters in Moyes’s book better. Isabelle, in particular, takes some getting used to — she does some amazing things, but her attitude grates.