When a book has over 18,000 Amazon reviews with a five-star average rating, that is a book I am going to think about reading, especially when it’s on sale for $1.99 on Kindle. Kristin Hannah’s World War II saga about French sisters who fight the war on the homefront in two very different ways is indeed well-written, but it’s adherence to genre conventions and an overly formulaic plot ultimately render it somewhat unworthy of those gaudy reviews.
Two sisters who are very different, a dead mother and a distant father, Paris, the Resistance, love, and warfare. It’d be hard to mess up, but as Hannah’s plot inches forward it hits every beat you’d expect. Its saving grace is that it does bring home the horrors of war. We hear casualty figures of the major battles, but by setting her story almost entirely within France Hannah is able to make readers consider the untold costs of the war. How many women and children starved to death or froze in winter while under Nazi occupation? How many people who survived these horrors were never the same?
The Nightingale lays it on a little thick with its fifty years later framing device and a tragic ending that could be considered manipulative. This is perhaps more your kind of book than mine, and if sounds like your kind of book it is a very well-executed version of what it is.