Viann Rossignol is a loving mother and wife who lives in a small, country town. She has a best-friend who has a daughter the same age as hers and even though she has experienced loss with multiple miscarriages, she still remains content with her life. Her younger sister Isabelle is a rambunctious young woman living in Paris. She always looks for a battle and is not afraid to stand up for herself. Since she and Viann were given up as children by her distant father, Isabelle has always gotten herself thrown into and out of boarding schools across France. Unable to think of anything further to do with her, their father forces Isabelle to move in with Viann as war begins to break out in Europe. France is slowly being taken over by the Germans and Viann’s husband has been taken as a prisoner of war. Left with no alternative, a German officer comes to stay with her and Isabelle leaves in disgust. She is determined to fight and not be complacent like her sister. But as the war drags on, both women will learn that fighting takes on many forms as they both stand strong for a free France.
Kristin Hannah has written a sad and moving story of family, love, and loss during a terrible period of history. The stories she writes for each woman as they fight in their own ways is heartbreaking. I found myself slowly becoming more and more involved with the characters and ultimately found myself more interested in Viann’s fight than Isabelle’s. The cruelty that people experienced during World War II is an atrocity and some parts of this story are truly not very pleasant as Hannah has written their experiences as accurately as possible. Their courage is admirable and I ended up wanting to learn more about Vichy France. The Nightingale is great for people interested in history although I would not recommend it for younger teenagers.