WWII: The Story of Immutable, Unbreakable Love: A Review of The Nightingale

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The Nightingale is a story of loss, discovery, redemption, family, and above all, the power of love to transcend, shine through life’s darkest moments, to remain defiant in the face of hell. Love is the immovable object that repels seemingly unstoppable forces. Through their actions, countless ordinary French citizens proved that their love for their country, their way of life, and their countrymen could overcome Hitler and his crusade of hate. Their love was one of many beacons that inspired and helped guide the Allies to victory.

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale is one of two novels I have read on the French Resistance, the other being Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. doerr

Both are equally powerful, and amazing. The Nightingale though, to me, was more emotionally charged. It dealt with subjects not touched by Doerr’s novel. The Nightingale is not an easy book to read and I was glad that I listened to the audio book. Ford provided the book to the Goodreads Audiobook Club. Thank you Ford.

Subjects included the deportation by the SS of Jews, homosexuals, Communists, political opponents, and other undesirables from France to concentration camps, life and conditions in the camps, interrogation and torture of people, the Vichy government and police, treatment of Allied prisoners of war, the cruelty of the German occupation of France, and the differences between the Gestapo/SS and the German army, the Wehrmacht.

The Nightingale rotates between 1995 and the years before, during, and immediately after Germany surrendered, starting off in 1995. One of the sisters talks about wanting to forget, in effect to put everything about the war in a box, shutting and taping the box, and for the box to remain closed forever. This is I did not find unusual, for many reasons, one in particular.

My father served in the Army Air Force during the war as part of the Allied occupation force. He was part of a unit that helped liberate the concentration camp, Dachau. Many years later, after the Berlin Wall fell, he was a member of a sanctuary choir that toured Europe, giving concerts in local churches. On one of these trips, Dachau was visited. His reluctance to set foot on the grounds came as a shock to many, until he explained that he had been there once before. My father ultimately did walk through the camp, while undoubtedly remembering what he had observed and experienced so many years ago as a 19 year old. Like the sister, he had never spoken about the war to either my mother or I, though he did watch war movies, which I grew to love.

I too visited the camp on that trip with the choir. If you get the chance, visit one of the camps. I also recommend visiting the U.S. Holocaust Museum in as well as the National WWII Memorial. Both are in Washington, D.C.

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