Wednesday, July 22, 2015

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah

Once again, we have a best-selling novel that everyone is raving about, but I don’t understand what all the hubbub is about.  Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, are coping with the German occupation of France during WWII in very different ways.  Vianne, whose husband is at the front, has only one objective and that is to keep her daughter Sophie safe.  Isabelle, on the other hand, would be a soldier herself if she could, but instead she becomes a key player for the Resistance and bears the code name “Nightingale.”  Both women are strong in their own way but different as night and day.  Impetuous Isabelle jumps into the fray with both feet, fully aware of the dangerous consequences of one wrong move, while naïve Vianne is the one making all the foolish mistakes.  Vianne fails to grasp how dire the situation is, trusting that the Germans will do the right thing.  Ha!  Plus, she believes the worst of Isabelle, who is actually trying to act strategically rather than just cope day-to-day.  On the other hand, starvation is a real threat, and Vianne has to seize the opportunities to survive that come her way.  Certainly, the heart of the story belongs to Isabelle, and her adventures kept me reading.  I get it that Vianne is suffering more, trying to stretch meager rations so that she and Sophie can survive the winters, but the more interesting part of her story has to do with the German officer who billets at her home.  I am certainly not in a position to judge how realistic the plot of this book is, but the uninspired prose detracts mightily from the gravity of the storyline.  David Gillham’s City of Women is a much better treatment of women trying to save lives during WWII.  In fact, I felt that this book was sort of a combination of City of Women and All the Light We Cannot See but not an improvement over either of them.

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