"You girls will be part of the generation that goes on, that remembers," he said. "The memories of what happened will be...hard to forget. You will need to stay together."
It is 1939 in France. Isabelle is 19 and desperately seeking a sense of belonging. Rejected from school after school, Isabelle is finally sent off to stay with her sister in the country. She is barely on the road when the bombs begin to drop. Headstrong Isabelle refuses to stand by quietly as the Nazis swiftly flex their presence in France. She begins by slowly, distributing papers for the French resistance. She moves quickly through the ranks and soon becomes the Nightingale.
The Nightingale crosses the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain cloaked in darkness, with downed airmen following the intricate path the underground movement has constructed for them. She is risking her life, but then again, how could one stand by and watch all of Europe crumble. She heeds no warning given to her. She treks back and forth on a vicious path to prove her own worth. She can't stop or slow down; a dangerous mission in a dangerous time and place. Under a false identity, she travels to and from Paris, deceiving those after her at every turn. Her lie is that of the good kind.
Vianne, Isabelle's older sister, stands by quietly as the Nazis take her town. She hopes that this will all be over soon and her husband Antoine will be home. But soon she realizes that these hopes are merely day dreams. They will be no such reality anytime soon. After her friend is "rounded up" in the raids, Dianne finds herself with another child in her home and soon she too is telling the good lie. Together with the local orphanage, she begins to hide children in plain sight.
These women face great challenges in their lives during the war. Isabelle pushes defiantly against the Nazis, tempting fate at every turn, while Vianne quietly forges her own battle from her home.
Both sisters seek survival in the most trying of times. Their lies rescue so many.
This is not an easy read; it is heartbreaking at every turn. But is important. Hannah does not sugarcoat the events and actions of this war. She boldly tackles the questions of right and wrong. She reminds us that war changes everything and everyone.