‘The Nightingale’ and ‘Orphan Train’

By December 1, 2015Book Reviews, Cos Barnes

Book reviews by Cos Barnes


book knightingaleKristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” is the finest book I have read this season. It relates the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who are close but have many differences.

The sisters live in Paris when Hitler’s invasion of France destroys their lives as they knew them. Isabelle always felt rejected by her father, who had become a hopeless alcoholic. Yet, he sends her to the countryside to help Vianne, who has a husband and a little girl.

The husband goes to war, and Isabelle joins the Resistance. Vianne wages a courageous battle at home, remaking hers and her daughter’s clothes and standing in line for rations each day. She has German officers living in her home and is subject to their indignities. The two sisters exhibit individual senses of right and wrong, but both show humanity and strength in the face of the atrocities of war.

Isabelle leads numerous trips across the Pyrennes, too busy for love, and Vianne takes the son of a Jewish best friend and protects him. She helps the nuns in the protection of Jewish youngsters. Read the book to find out who the ‘Nightingale’ is and what happened to all after the war.

book orphan trainMy book club members went around the room in discussion of Christina Baker Kline’s book, “Orphan Train.” Some said they had never heard of the orphan trains. Between 1854 and 1929, orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest. Their cargo, unfortunately, was thousands of abandoned children whose destiny would be determined by fate. They might be adopted by a loving family or committed to servitude.

The star of this epic tale is a 9-year-old Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly, who is sent by train from New York City to a world of hardship. Her saving grace is going to school, a feat she walks miles in the cold to accomplish. Her school teacher finally helps her out of the wretchedness of her life.

Kline weaves a fascinating tale, in which the true mystery is revealed by mementos buried in an attic. Other characters appear and enhance this brilliant story.