The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Historical fiction, this is a well-researched story based on the actual lives of two sisters during WWII in Nazi occupied France. One sister, a gutsy and determined extrovert, is deeply involved with the underground resistance movement, first as a courier delivering secret tracts, messages and documents, then as a guide helping downed pilots and injured soldiers escape from Belgium, through France over the rugged Pyrenees Mountains to safety in Spain. The other sister, a timid and fearful introvert, is struggling with the moral ambiguities of doing what is necessary for herself and her child to survive the horrors of war vs. doing what is right.
The first sister, Isabelle (in real life, Andrée de Jongh), made more than 30 double crossings, on foot, escorting 116 evaders, including more than 80 aircrew,until she was captured and sent to Mauthausen and Ravensbruck concentration camps where she spent two years before the end of the war.
Her sister, established a secret refuge for Jewish children who would otherwise, if found, have been sent to concentration camps. It is also about the strained relationship between these two sisters and their father. Both women were heroes in my estimation. Isabelle's character is based on the late Andrée de Jongh (1916-2007), an amazing woman who repeatedly risked her life helping British and American servicemen escape on foot from Nazi-occupied Belgium and France. To read more about the woman herself go here:
“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.
“I found myself consumed with a single, overwhelming question, as relevant today as it was seventy years ago: When would I, as a wife and mother, risk my life — and more important, my child's life — to save a stranger? . . . which is worse: The fear of the risk, or the fear of letting children grow up in a world where good people do nothing to stop evil?"
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