Recently, I realized I had a handful of books with the word “Nightingale” in the title. It’s kind of fun noticing book trends. All four of these books were published between 2015-2017. Maybe four books with the same word in the title isn’t all that extraordinary, but I found it interesting. I thought it might be a sweet combo for the blog, so I set to work reading all of them in a row.
When I got to the end of all four, I didn’t feel up to posting in-depth reviews of each. So I decided to post some mini reviews. Check out my previous post to read mini reviews of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, and Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo.
Now, let’s wrap things up with The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and then The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is the story of two sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, during World War II in Nazi occupied France. Vianne lives in the French countryside with her husband and daughter. Her husband is drafted, and eventually becomes a prisoner of war. Her rebellious younger sister, Isabelle, comes to live with her just as a German officer seizes their home and moves in with them. Isabelle, disgusted by the war and wishing to make a difference, decides to fight back. She begins secretly delivering resistance pamphlets throughout town. Eventually she is called to more and more dangerous resistance efforts. She leaves her sister, and heads to Paris. As many British and American pilots are forced to make emergency landings over France, Isabelle ushers the fighters to safety, escorting them through France, over treacherous mountain passes, and across the boarder into Spain.
Meanwhile, Vianne believes that if she can keep her head down and avoid drawing attention to herself and her daughter, it will keep them safe from the dangers of the war. Vianne’s passivity is challenged when her best friend and Jewish neighbor must flee town or be sent to a concentration camp. Vianne attempts to secretly help her friend. As more Jewish neighbors are taken by the Nazis, Vianne attempts to hide and protect their children, keeping them from the concentration camps. Despite possessing strikingly different natures, both sisters become powerful resistors, bravely navigating the horrors of the war, and managing to save hundreds of lives.
This story is inspired by true accounts of the many French women who risked their own lives to save others during World War II, right under the noses of the Nazis. It is a wonderful book. I can almost guarantee you’ll end up binge-reading. It won’t be an easy read, in terms of content, but it is a page-turner. You’ll be happy you read it. This one was the best written novel out of all four.
For Ages | Adult
Genre | Historical fiction
Should you read this book? | YES! (Did I say that loudly enough?) YES!!!
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange
Henry (short for Henrietta) has moved to a new house with her family after the death of her older brother. Her father is called away for unknown reasons, her mother is very sick, and she is left to help her nanny care for her infant sister while coping with the loss of her brother. Her mother is being treated by a doctor who keeps her heavily sedated and locked in her room. Henry is lonely, and the doctor won’t let her see her mother. One day, Henry wanders into the woods at the edge of the property, and stumbles upon a mysterious woman living in a caravan in the forest. Little by little, the woman helps Henry, encouraging her to find a way to see her mother. As the doctor makes plans to involuntarily commit Henry’s mother to a mental health institution, Henry is forced to become a very young and unlikely advocate for her family. She bravely works to pull her family back together, devising ways to overcome the tremendous power exerted over her by the adults in her life.
I purchased this book to round out my stack of loosely connected “Nightingale” novels. This extremely corny reasoning brought a wonderful story into my life. Henry is a delightful protagonist.
This book is marketed for grades 3-7. In my opinion, it might be a bit advanced for grades 3 or 4, but is excellent for grade 5 to adulthood. It’s the first book from author Lucy Strange. I’ll be on the lookout for her next book.
For Ages | 10 years to Adult
Genre | Middle Reader, Fiction
Should you read this book? | Yes, whether you’re a middle schooler or a grown-up, I think you’ll enjoy it.
A Few Fun Facts Before You Go
Collective nouns for nightingales include: a watch, a match, or an enchantment. How sweet!
Male nightingales will stay awake singing for as much as half of the night during mating season, trying to capture the attention of potential mates. This takes a lot out of the male nightingale! All that singing makes them lose weight. They eat a lot during the day to boost their energy reserves for nighttime crooning.
Nightingales have a long history in literature; poets seem particularly enamored with these birds. Homer, Shakespeare, and Keats all used the nightingale in their writing. Looks like the authors of my little stack of books are in good company.