genre: historical fiction
Yes, I know I read a lot of books about World War 2. A LOT. Not only do I like historical fiction but I really love to read stories in which people choose to find things worth living for, find beauty amid horror and make the choice to be brave when it would be so much easier to give up. WW2 just forced so many people to choose: do I turn a blind eye? Do I take the path of least resistance? Do I believe the rhetoric even when my own eyes see terror, hatred and persecution?
The Nightingale is such a story.
It's a story of two French sisters, both of whom were abandoned by their father as children. Vianne is a mother, a homemaker, content in her life until her beloved husband is called up to fight against Hitler. Isabelle is on the brink of adulthood: impetuous, impulsive and desperate to be loved. We follow their story from the beginning of the war to the end - as each of them must find ways to survive in desperate times as they watch friends and lovers become caught up in the cogs of war and that choice I described above has to be made: what do I do in the face of terrible, terrible wrong? It is a story of the French Resistance, a story of a broken family trying to keep the pieces together and a story of what a person can be willing to give up in order to survive with their soul intact: safety, comfort and even one's identity. And sometimes, your own life may be required - if it's a sacrifice you can be strong enough to make.
This book made me cry the drippy tears - it made me FEEL. I have read several stories of the French Resistance and it's always inspiring, this one is not different in that sense. What I liked about this book that made it different is the relationships - especially the sister dynamic. Painful, yes, but believable. This is a book full of pain, really - and it didn't have those "ah ha!" moments of inspiring beauty the way that All The Light We Cannot See has. However, like I said before, it made me FEEL - I engaged with the characters, I cared about them, especially as a mom I felt for Vianne trying to keep it together for the sake of her child. This story is as much about love as it is about war - how love can equally tear us apart or stitch us together, depending on whether we have it or not.
It's not for the faint of heart but it's not super graphic either. I'm glad I read it.