by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale is the story of two young women in France during World War II – Vianne Mauriac and her rebellious sister Isabelle. It is 1939 and Vianne is living in Carriveau when her husband Antoine is drafted into the army to serve as a soldier in the Front. At first, she doesn’t believe the Nazis will invade France. But invade they do, and when they take her village, Vianne and her daughter are stuck with a German officer who billets in her house. Her sister, meanwhile, joins the Resistance and puts herself in constant danger, working to save the lives of innocent Jews.
The author’s writing style is simple and easy to read. So simple, in fact, that it almost seems as if it were written for children. The content, however, says otherwise. The book begins with one of the sister’s – it is not yet clear which – speaking. Then the main story begins. There is an interlude every once in a while during which the unknown sister speaks again. The main part of the book switches back and forth between Vianne and her sister’s point of view. It describes in detail Vianne’s ordeal of having a German officer living in her house and the dangerous actions Isabelle took to save lives. While Isabelle is impulsive and reckless, often acting before thinking, Vianne is more thoughtful and cautious, unwilling to take unnecessary risks.
While I did enjoy the storyline, I thought this book could have used a more mature, grave tone. Given the theme and the setting, the writing style was a bit too simple for me, almost as if it was being toned down for the children. In some places, the author could have given the events and her descriptions of them a little more weight, emphasizing their importance and perhaps providing a little more detail. In addition, I felt there was not enough information given about the other characters and the hierarchy system involved in the Resistance. I knew almost nothing about the leadership structure, although this could be because Isabelle herself did not know much about those working for the Resistance.
I liked The Nightingale, but it is not the best story of living during a war that I have read. In terms of appropriateness, it does include a brief torture scene and a rape in chapter 33, which did not include much detail at all. The torture did not include the brutal methods so often portrayed in movies and was not extremely detailed. I think it is up to the parents’ discretion to decide whether or not their children should read this book.