Hannah's new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II. In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Vianne has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie's adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Vianne’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone: food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin Isabelle's outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Vianne’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah's proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale. Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner. (Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2014)
Character growth and development is a strength of this World War II-set novel, although the middle plods during some sections. Sisters Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are driven apart by unhealed childhood wounds and clashing personalities. When Isabelle is kicked out of boarding school for the umpteenth time for "rebellious" behavior, her embittered veteran father, in the midst of drowning his own battle scars in bourbon, sends the adolescent to her elder sister's house. Meanwhile, Vianne attempts to find salvation from her past by marrying her teenage sweetheart and relocating to the French countryside where she delights in her garden and her school-age daughter. As Hitler's forces invade, both sisters face challenging choices that will show where their loyalties lie. VERDICT Hannah (Summer Island; Firefly Lane) has long been a staple of women's fiction. Readers who enjoy stories with ethical dilemmas and character-driven narratives will enjoy this novel full of emotion and heart. [See Prepub Alert, 8/11/14.]— Julia M. Reffner, Midlothian, VA --Julia M. Reffner (Reviewed January 1, 2015) (Library Journal, vol 140, issue 1, p91)
/* Starred Review */ Hannah (Fly Away, 2013) departs from the contemporary novels she’s known for with this engrossing tale of two sisters’ bravery in occupied France during WWII. Vianne and Isabelle Rossignol took very different paths after their mother’s death devastated their family and war turned their father into a distant and withdrawn parent. Older sister Vianne sought comfort in the arms of a schoolmate, getting pregnant and marrying at just 16. Rebellious Isabelle gets herself kicked out of multiple boarding schools. Then the Germans conquer France, and the sisters’ lives change drastically. When her husband is captured and detained as a prisoner of war in Germany, Vianne is forced to take in a German captain. Soon she finds herself relying on him to ensure there is food on the table for her daughter. Isabelle joins the Resistance, boldly leading fallen airmen fighting for the liberation of France over the mountains to Spain to safety. Hannah’s latest is a page-turner that will no doubt have readers reaching for tissues. This moving, emotional tribute to the brave women who fought behind enemy lines during the war is bound to gain the already immensely popular Hannah an even wider audience. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a 350,000 initial print run and a multiplatform promotional campaign, best-selling Hannah’s new novel is positioned to take the book world by storm. -- Huntley, Kristine (Reviewed 12-15-2014) (Booklist, vol 111, number 8, p33)
“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are,” Hannah’s narrator, Vianne Mauriac, proclaims as she looks back on her life in France. The bestselling author hits her stride in this page-turning tale about two sisters, one in the French countryside, the other in Paris, who show remarkable courage in the German occupation during WWII. Through Vianne we learn how life was disrupted when husbands and fathers were forced to enlist while the Germans took over their towns and villages, billeting themselves in people’s homes, gorging on food, and forcing the starved locals to wait in endless lines for rations. Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle, always rebellious, joins the resistance in Paris, finds love with another resistance fighter, and risks her life guiding downed British and American paratroopers over the Pyrenees and out of France. Vianne does her part too, saving 19 Jewish children by hiding them in a convent. Despite having a German officer in her own home, she also takes in a Jewish baby—her best friend’s son—when his mother is sent to a concentration camp. The author ably depicts war’s horrors through the eyes of these two women, whose strength of character shines through no matter their differences. Announced first printing of 350,000 copies. (Feb.) --Staff (Reviewed December 1, 2014) (Publishers Weekly, vol 261, issue 50, p).