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.
It seems like every other historical fiction book being released these days is about women who were spies and saboteurs during the occupation of France in World War Two. This is not at all a bad thing, for it brings light to efforts that have gone unacknowledged for a terribly long time. But this glut of WW2 French Resistance fiction does mean that, though The Nightingale came at the forefront of the wave, by the time I got to it it did not feel particularly original.
There’s two sisters who have a difficult relationship with each other and with their father. France has been occupied and it sucks. The sisters both get involved in the Resistance in different ways, and ride out the occupation to be delivered to different fates. End of story.
I’m being very unfair. This was a well-written book, but it just didn’t click for me, and as I said I felt as though I’d read it a bunch of times before, especially Isabelle’s section as a passeur. I was more interested in Vianne’s storyline, as she had a German officer billeting in her house and because her interactions with the enemy were more morally complex, but I felt she was sort of given short shrift in the novel.
Where Hannah shines was in making me care about the characters. Even if Isabelle often annoyed me, I wanted things to go well for her, Vianne, and the others, even though I knew that a wartime book means lots of very sad things are going to happen.
Overall, a pretty decent read. I liked the writing more than the story.