Sunday, July 21, 2024

Monday Night Book Club Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Elaine Burns

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.”

When author Hannah was researching WW2, she came across the story of a young Belgian woman who had created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France. As Hannah states, “That story led me to others that were equally fascinating. Stories about women who had saved Jewish children and rescued downed airmen and put themselves in harm’s way to save others. Women who had paid terrible, unimaginable prices for their heroism.” One could question why it is so often that war stories are about the men, when in fact women in all wars have played a pivotal role.

Kristin Hannah is a bestselling author of twenty-one novels, including the blockbuster Firefly Lane and #1 bestsellers Night Road and Home Front. Her books often have the theme of sisters and of women dealing with life’s hardships.

Hannah herself is a lawyer by profession, but began writing while caring for her dying mother. When confined to bed rest for five months while pregnant with her son, her husband encouraged her to retrieve those stories written with her mom and write a novel. The rest, as they say, is history or more appropriately ‘herstory’.

The Nightingale looks at war-torn France from just before the Nazi invasion to the end of the war. The deprivation, both physical and emotional, suffered by the French people, the deportation of friends and neighbours to concentration camps, and the children, as always the biggest losers in any conflict.

Scenes depicting the mass exodus from Paris after occupation is reminiscent of today’s trials as those fleeing conflict in the Middle East seek refuge. As with them, and all those who pick up their meager load and move in hopes of something better, succor is seldom found.

Vianne and Isobelle are two sisters who have a love/hate relationship from almost birth, each dealing with the atrocities in her own way. Isobelle, the rebel, by setting up and shepherding many hundreds of downed airmen and Allied sympathizers over the Pyrenees by foot, Vianne by keeping herself, her daughter, and countless other children safe and fed as best she can during the occupation of her town.

This is a beautiful read. There is enough story to help you swallow the hardships and enough hardships to make you truly appreciate how cruel, as a species, we can be.

All of us loved the book. Many of us had not heard of Hannah before but I do believe there will be a rush on her books at the library.

September’s Book:

The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton

FOML Update:

Weekends at the Net Shed continue to be busy. Do come down to the water to enjoy the breeze and enjoy the search for a new or old favourite. The Net Shed does not just have novels. Look there for DIY, cooking, decoration, sports how-to, business, finance, biographies and self help. There is a huge section of Children and Young Adult books too.

Don’t forget the Sunday night concerts at the Harbour Pavilion.

As with everything FOML does, the proceeds go to the Meaford Public Library.

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