Book Review: Great historical World War II fiction |

Book Review: Great historical World War II fiction

Virgie DeNucci/For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

In war, heroic action is evident both on the battlefield and at home. Most war stories focus on combat deeds, but civilians also fight for their countries in ways that may be equally as dangerous as picking up a weapon.

If you are looking for great World War II historical fiction that will keep you glued to your seat and bring you to uncontrollable tears, then consider reading this book by Kristin Hannah.

The novel begins in 1995, when an elderly and terminally ill French woman prepares to move from her home to a nursing home. There are few possessions that are important to her, but she insists on bringing an old trunk. Her son humors her, not knowing that the trunk contains important mementos as well as false identification papers from World War II. He has no clue who his mother really is, and this is precisely when the real story begins.

Two French sisters, just ordinary women living in a city under siege and a country at war, are faced with unthinkable decisions in order to survive. These sisters take different paths to heroism in World War II

Isabelle, a beautiful young woman, plunges into the war effort as a French Resistance operative, leading downed pilots across the Pyrennes Mountains from France to Spain. This unlikely role for a beautiful young woman serves as her disguise.

Her sister, Vianne, is devastated when her husband is called to the battlefield. She finds herself living in her own house with a Nazi general, as she desperately tries to survive and protect her daughter, as well as hiding Jewish children to save them from the atrocities of war.

But wait! There is more to this plot!

Prior to the war these two sisters had nothing in common but blood. Their father was a traumatized World War I veteran, who lost interest in both girls after the death of their mother. It is this war that brings them back together, then causes conflict, and finally reunites them, in a manner of speaking.

Both women make a significant contribution to the French Resistance. Both women find themselves “bone tired and soul weary.”

In my opinion, this book has it all; a compelling plot taking place within a historic point in history, courageous and resilient characters so different from each other, but both so lovable, and a story so heartbreaking that it brought me to tears. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed such a book. I was disappointed when I finished it — only because I didn’t want it to end.

Kristin Hannah is an award-winning and bestselling author of more that 20 novels. “Home Front,” “Night Road” and “Firefly Lane” are several of her popular novels.

Virgie DeNucci is a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.

This book is available at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore; e-book can be found at

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