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BOOK OF THE WEEK
In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow moves into a nursing home. Shortly after, she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honouring those who aided the escape of others during World War II. The story flashes back to 1940 where Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, off to fight the invading Germans. She returns to her small farm, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, her world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged, younger sister, Isabelle, is sent to live with Viann. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer at Viann’s home, Isabelle’s outspokenness becomes a liability. She leaves to join the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before being captured.
Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportation and death of more than 70,000 Jews.
This novel celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women, and it ends in 1995 where the widow is reunited with her memories.
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