Although I enjoy historical fiction, particularly the Word War II era, I had no intention of reading these two titles back-to-back. Getting my hands on these two books has been a challenge since there are 200+ holds on each title in our public library network. But we have this great section called ‘High Demand’ in our library, also known as ‘Speed Reads,’ ‘Your Lucky Day’ or ‘Quick Pick’, which allow one check out period of three weeks and no renewals. The idea is that more people can check out popular titles and it works as first-come, first-served. Long story short, this is why I read these titles in succession. It was a captivating, yet heavy, few weeks and I think a change in genre is in order.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Captivating. Beautifully Written. Strong Characters.

Anthony Doerr builds a story around two young characters living through WWII whose lives and stories are told concurrently. The first, a young, blind girl resides in Paris with her father who is the master of locks at the Museum of Natural History. Marie Laure and her father eventually flee Paris for Saint-Malo when the Germans occupy France at the beginning of World War II.

In what seems like another world, Werner and his sister are orphans in Germany. He finds an old radio and becomes a master of radio repairs, which eventually earns him admission to a military academy. We follow him through his Hitler Youth training and eventually his work against the Resistance. Ultimately Marie Laure and Werner’s paths cross in more than one way culminating in a beautiful ending.

The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Emotional. Heart-Breaking. Page-Turner.

The Nightingale tells the story of two French sisters who are abandoned by their father as young girls following their mother’s death. Fast forward to the eve of World War II where the sisters are estranged and the younger still longs for her father’s love. As the Germans enter France the reader is shown the life of women during the occupation and the risks taken by The Resistance to fulfill their cause. Although this was a very heavy and emotional tale of courage, survival and loss in a war-torn country, the fast-paced storytelling kept the pages turning quickly.

Notable Nuggets:

  • Father-Daughter Relationship: The father-daughter relationship theme always seems to strike a chord, as mine is an important part of my life. Both stories have a father character whose wife has passed away and each character handles the situation very differently; one becomes fully devoted to his daughter while the other completely abandons his two daughters. Although these two fathers differ greatly, the love for their daughter(s) was unwavering. While reading take note of these relationships, think of your own and be sure to share your gratitude for him or her. (Thank you, Dad!)
  • Strength & Courage: Each character in these two books was faced with inexplicable circumstances and pushed to great lengths. Learning each character’s limitations and personality gave me a greater appreciation for their acts of strength and courage, both small and large. For example, Marie Laure’s uncle is agoraphobic and when in dire straights he ventures outside of the comfort of his home. Although not a struggle for most, his strength and courage were admirable. Be brave in any form.