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The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

Travel Back In Time

Kristin Hannah expertly weaves together fact and fiction to create a gut wrenching story that transports readers into the protagonists’ shoes.

 “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah allows you to time travel back to the 1940s where the darkest hours of history unfold and perseverance is key to survival. 

This story, set against the haunting backdrop of World War II, follows two sisters in their separate journeys to survive the realities of war in Nazi-occupied France. Vianne, the older sister, has to fight to keep her and her daughter safe from the Nazis invading her village and is forced to live with a Nazi soldier while her husband is at the front. She aims to keep under the radar and  out of the Nazis’ way to not provoke them. On the other hand, 18-year-old Isabelle, who is rebellious and passionate, becomes involved in the French resistance, risking her life to fight against the Nazis. 

While this book did have a slow start, once the pacing picks up, it is a page-turner that I could hardly put down when first reading it. The narrative switches back and forth between the two sisters, which kept me enthralled throughout the book and it provided an understanding of the character’s struggles and growths as each learns valuable lessons from wartime. This book does not sugarcoat the brutality of war and makes you ask yourself, “What would I have done in this situation?” or “How far would I go to save strangers while risking my own or my family’s lives?” There is no right or wrong answer, which is, what I believe to be the main theme Hannah intertwines in this book. While the two sisters had very different approaches to surviving the war, neither were wrong and both were heroic in their own ways. I personally love this theme and believe it shows that just because someone did it differently than you, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or any less valuable.      

Hannah also captures the essence of humanity, the resilience of the human spirit, and the moral complexities of war. Officer Beck, the Nazi billeted in Vianne’s home, is a character who challenges the conventional narrative by conveying his complexities as a human being trapped within his role of being a Nazi. Hannah paints her world gray instead of black and white and makes the readers grapple with the moral ambiguity of this book. Additionally, the author showcases the struggles of those not sent to concentration camps, but left without basic necessities, and living in constant fear. Hannah highlights stories that are not told or shared enough, which is equally as important if not more than ones that are told frequently.  

The often-overlooked role of women in wartime resistance is also brought to light through this book. Isabelle’s character is based on the late Andrée de Jongh, who repeatedly risked her life helping British and American soldiers escape from Nazi-occupied Belgium and France. This layer of authenticity adds even more historical depth and richness to the book while telling a story of a forgotten sacrifice. Not only does Hannah spotlight buried stories, but she also does a good job of introducing lesser-known historical events from WWII such as the exodus from Paris, retaliation against the French resistance, the dangers of the Pyrenees escape routes, and much more. These different yet often lost perspectives of the war are what make this book unique and stand out.   

Hannah’s use of descriptive language brought the book to life and I felt like I was with the characters, experiencing their journeys alongside them. Her writing is raw and beautiful and she captures the emotions of her characters perfectly. This book definitely pulled on my heartstrings and I felt emotionally gutted at the end. Cancel all appointments and plans you have that day when starting this book and grab some tissues because you will surely be needing them. 

 

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Kindt, Writing and Copy Editor
I’m Scarlett and this is my second year on staff as a writing editor! I love digital drawing, reading, and watching movies!

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