In her new novel, The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah shows readers a Nazi-occupied France through the eyes of the women kept prisoner in their own homeland.
Reading The Nightingale, I learn what people endured during World War II – through stories from the people who survived during that time, war veterans, and from conversations with civilians. Fiction is a tool that can take people through time and to fantastical places. In this book, readers are given a historical lesson of what civilians, especially women had to tolerate during the war. From dealing with German soldiers forcing themselves into their homes to live with them while their husbands are off fighting in the war, or being tortured in a prison camp. Then there is the Nightingale who helps downed airman escape enemy territory across mountains. Does it matter whether this person is male or female? A hero is a hero. This is a whole other topic.
The palace had been brightened up for the occasion. The walls and the floors, which were all of china, shone by the light of many thousand golden lamps. The most beautiful flowers, all of the tinkling kind, were arranged in the corridors; there was hurrying to and fro, and a great draught, but this was just what made the bells ring; one’s ears were full of tinkling. In the middle of the large reception-room where the emperor sat a golden rod had been fixed, on which the nightingale was to perch. The whole court assembled, and the little kitchen-maid had been permitted to stand behind the door, as she now had the actual title of cook. They were all dressed in their best; everbody’s eyes were turned towards the little grey bird at which the emperor was nodding. The nightingale sang delightfully, and the tears came into the emperor’s eyes, nay, they rolled down his cheeks; and then the nightingale sang more beautifully than ever, its notes touched all hearts. The emperor was charmed, and said the nightingale should have his gold slipper to wear round its neck. But the nightingale declined with thanks; it had already been sufficiently rewarded.