Friday, April 29, 2016

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I had really wanted to read this book and was disappointed when I wasn't going to be able to attend our neighborhood book group when we were going to discuss this. I tend to read my own selections when this happens. But, then, the date was changed and I ordered the book for my Kindle and got to reading. What an incredible read - an historical lesson, a page turner and tearjerker all rolled into one remarkable book.

The Nightingale begins with an elderly woman, about ready to move into an assisted living facility, going through some memorabilia in a trunk in her attic. The reader is told of an old passport that obviously has had some disturbing memories tied to it. The in flashback, the novel begins its story of two diametrically different sisters who live in rural France during the Nazi occupation of the country. Vianne lives on the family homestead, Le Jardin, while Isabelle is being disciplined at a boarding school for showing her defiant and rebellious attitude.  The sisters' mother died when they were young leaving their father to try to cope with raising the two girls. He couldn't cope with this and virtually left the girls to fend for themselves. Vianne marries the postmaster, Antoine,  the village in the Loire Valley and has a daughter, Sophia. Their life is then torn apart when Antoine goes off to war and Vianne is left to maintain the house, teach in the local school, and raise Sophia.  Add to this the arrival of Isabelle, who has been sent by their father when he shuns her living with him in Paris.

As the novel unfolds the horrific crimes of the time are revealed without sugar-coating the events or feelings of the time. Vianne's home is requisitioned by a Wehrmark officer and he billets there. Isabelle joins the resistance movement and guides downed airmen over the Pyrenees to Spain and safety. Jewish friends of the family disappear overnight and children are left as orphans. The result of this is a heart-wrenching story of a time that was filled with calculated torture, persecution, and lack of compassion for the human race.

Kristen Hannah has given her readers a novel that takes twists and turns and will, ultimately, keep the reader not wanting the book to end. A definite must read that will stay with her readers long after the book is closed.