From My Bookshelf ~ Kristin Hannah and Helen Simonsin


By Lynn Willoughby

The Nightingale ~ Kristin Hannah

This is not a typical WWII story. Instead, the setting is the small French town of Carriveau. The two protagonists are women – sisters in fact, who each react to the hardship, danger, pain and starvation of wartime in very different ways.

The subject matter, the plot, the war seen through the eyes of women was very intriguing but the writing was lackluster, slow and just never developed the sense of horror or tenderness that should have been there.

Vianne is married with a daughter, Sophie, when her husband goes off to war. Her sister Isabelle, runs away from yet another boarding school and has big plans to enter the war herself – as a nurse or maybe a driver.
Eventually both sisters must deal with the turmoil, horror and despair in her own way.

The French Resistance is the real story and Hannah seems to have done her research. However, it just never grabbed me and held me, I was never holding my breath waiting to see what would happen. It did leave me with the question “What would I do?” in the same circumstances faced by the sisters throughout the book.

Hannah’s descriptions of the cold, the food shortages, the lack of clothing, blankets, fuel, electricity, medical supplies and all of life’s necessities were very real – they just seemed too modern, too Hollywood, too American.
I didn’t care for this book but I know others who loved it. Perhaps we were looking for different things.

  • Firefly Lane
  • Night Road

………….and several others

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand ~ Helen Simonsin

This debut novel seems very simple – a love story between 68 year old Major Ernest Pettigrew and a 58 year old Pakistani shop keeper, Mrs Ali. Loneliness, a love of literature, the importance of family make this story charming. Yet friction between generations, social classes, religion and culture in rural England, bring excitement, hostility, embarassment and disaster to Edcombe St Mary. This story is not simple at all!

The writing style is especially enjoyable. It is elegant, witty, crazy, funny and tactful in the way the English-Pakistani relationships take centre stage, while the difficult colonial past of these two countries keeps rearing its head.

“You are a wise man, Major…but I must ask you, do you really understand what it means to be in love with an unsuitable woman?”

“Is there really any other kind?” said the Major

This book is not a thriller, not a page turner. It is character driven and you feel as though you actually know these people and how they think.

“For a reader with a healthy sense of humour, this book is a super delight to read. It is about communication gone manual again…no digitalization of any kind. A few duck get in a row, and a few will dodge a suicidal flight.” (Margitte) “I think I threw the turkey out the window” said Roger. “Or maybe I thought I threw it through the window. There is a big draft in here.”

This book reminds us to change what we can and accept the things we cannot. It is a delight, well written and well peopled.

Who Knew?

Rudyard Kipling’s books have a swastika printed on their covers associated with an elephant carrying a lotus flower. It is based on the Indian sun symbol conferring good luck.