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Monday, August 1, 2016

Female French Resistance Fighters... The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

From the book's blurb:
"FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women." 

My review: 
Ms. Hannah is an excellent storyteller. She often uses cliches, but I don't mind. I think that there are times when a cliche is the most succinct way to say something. Additionally, Ms. Hannah can evoke feelings and events through beautiful prose. For example, when showing, not telling, us of the change in the quick-to-act, slow-to-think Isabelle, Ms. Hannah writes

"She let fear give her a little shake and she almost gave in to it. Then she thought about the swastikas that flew from the Eiffel Tower and Vianne living with the enemy and Antoine lost in some prisoner of war camp. And Edith Cavell. Certainly she had been afraid sometimes, too; Isabelle would not let fear stand in her way.”

The image of swastikas flying from the Eiffel Tower was powerful. I felt the sight would have spurred to action even the most calloused among the French. The acknowledgement of fear, yet the ability to  triumph over it, is a universally desired trait.  Many of us who read historical fiction often ask ourselves, 'how would I have reacted.'  Both sisters, although taking different avenues to do it, showed a remarkable ability to overcome their fear and help their community and their country.

Now, to my dissatisfaction with the book.  When reading historical fiction I always have an expectation of notes from the author at the end of the work distinguishing fact from fiction in his/her work. I feel cheated if I cannot connect to real people, places, and events through the author's notes on their research findings. Thus, when I finished Nightingale, I felt cheated. It was apparent that Ms. Hannah had done her research, but there were no words from the author on any of the women she researched, the places she visited, or the feelings she developed for her subject

I missed all that, so I did some research of my own. I learned that women only made up 15-20% of the French Resistance movement. In other European countries the women represented a much higher percent of the resistance. Still, there are some great stories to be found about the French women and their part in the resistance. I"m sure Ms. Hannah read many of these stories and plowed through many historical accounts. I just wish she had shared her research with us (me).

In 2009, one lady who served in the French Resistance celebrated her 104th birthday. Read her story, and others like it for yourself.
The 104-year-old holds up the concentration camp uniform she was forced to wear

Mrs Peel holds up the concentration camp uniform she had to wear after she was captured. She spent time in two such camps and miraculously survived a firing squad

Read more:
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Would I recommend the book to those who like WWII historical fiction. Yes, of course, but read it for yourself and see what your think.  Available at all major outlets and online. I bought mine on sale, online.


  1. An interesting review. I tend to like the historical verification also.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Great review. I'm like you, I need to know what is based on fact and what is fiction. Majority of authors do include it. Off to check if it's still on offer.