Good, but a hard read
Susan May Warren's "Nightingale" is a tale of grace and forgiveness. Esther, a nurse and single mother, is trapped by a sin she committed, trying to atone for it, and unable to feel clean again; Peter, a surgeon, was trapped in a war and is now held prisoner by the side with which he best associates. They meet through letters first, after Peter tries to save her fiancÃÂ© Linus as he lay wounded on the battlefield. Linus passes a letter written to Esther for Peter to mail, and through this strikes up a connection with Esther, who writes back for more details. Over the letters their friendship grows, though their faults and secrets are hidden until they finally meet in person.
Warren has a fairly poetical style of writing, which is a nice change after many novels with a more straightforward style. However, I tend to read quickly - sometimes too quickly - so I occasionally lost track of exactly what was happening due largely to the writing. There is also a fair amount of jumping back and forth with memories, so it took a moment or too to figure out where I was in the story - present or past.
This is a mature novel - not that there are scenes of steamy passion, but that it deals with hard subjects, such as a fallen woman trying to make things right. So many of the characters, from Esther to the wounded soldiers to even Peter at times, lack hope. And if one lacks hope, how much faith can one have left? For "faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Esther does not believe that she can attain forgiveness for her actions, and so many of the soldiers believe there is no life for them anymore, crippled as they are. They have lost both hope and faith. The characters are very flawed, but Jesus came to save such souls as these; His grace proves sufficient.
Prior to reading this novel, I had not known that during WWII there were prisoner of war camps in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, where the German soldiers were held, nor did I give much thought to what happened when the Russians occupied East Germany.
This was a good story, with less-than-well-known but fascinating history behind it, but it is not an easy read - not in the subject matter nor in the writing style. "Nightingale" demands one's full attention.
August 22, 2013
Serious historical romance
Despite all the great reviews, you might still be hesitating over buying this book, perhaps because you haven't read the first book in the series, or because Susan May Warren's books are too lighthearted for your taste. Don't worry. Buy the book. Why?
Firstly, the above product description is only half right. The hero is Peter Hess, an army medic from Iowa. There is no Wolfgang in the book - I can only assume that the description above was written during the planning stages of the book.
Secondly, although this book is the second in the Brothers in Arms collection, it is a stand-alone novel. I bought Sons of Thunder, but have to admit that I just couldn't get into it so never finished it (probably because I was in the mood for a lighthearted romance, and books set during a war can't really do lighthearted). But I enjoyed Nightingale so much, even without reading Thunder first, that I'll have to go back now to see what I missed.
Thirdly, this book is a departure from Susan May Warren's lighthearted contemporary romances (e.g. Deep Haven series or the Josie series) and her romantic suspense novels (Team Hope or Noble Legacy). In it, Warren proves that she can research and write historical as well as contemporary fiction, an achievement not many authors can carry off.
So what is the book about? It tells the story of Esther, nurse and single mother, who is living in the home of her fiance's controlling parents while he is fighting in World War II in Europe. She receives a letter from Peter Hess, an army medic who treated her fiance, Linus, as he lay dying in the battlefield. Esther has conflicting emotions at the thought that Linus is dead, as she never loved him, and she is strangely attracted by the letter from the stranger, so she begins a correspondence with him that has unexpected consequences. Nightingale addresses deeper issues than Warren's previous works, touching on the nature of forgiveness and how God can move us on from our mistakes. Well worth reading.
October 13, 2011
Can you picture it?
It's 1945 and the United States is at war. Soldiers are fighting, bleeding, dying. Families at home are praying for their sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, boyfriends.
All Germans are considered Nazi, regardless of where they were born. Even Americans who look German are ridiculed. And those who went back to the home country at the wrong time? They got drafted into the German army, fighting against their homeland, America. Many cannot stand what Hitler is doing, and yet if they flee, they will be shot.
Back home, nurses are caring for the wounded as they return. They know what is happening oversees; they see the limbs lost, the men suffering. They are friends with others who have lost loved ones in the war.
This is the setting for Nightingale. Only, Esther Lange isn't pining for her fiancÃÂ©e, fighting oversees. She doesn't actually love him. But since they have a child together, she figures they really should get married. One day, she receives a letter from another soldier, informing her that Linus is dead. She writes back to the soldier, asking how he died. Soon Esther and Peter begin corresponding back and forth. Once Esther finds out that Peter is a German American, unwillingly fighting on the wrong side, she wonders if things could really work out between them.
This was a very enjoyable book. In that time in history, if a girl got pregnant out of wedlock, the boy did the right thing and married her. But what happened when the girl didn't want to marry him? Susan May Warren addresses this question in a book that I recommend to anyone that likes historical fiction.
I received this complementary book from Christian Review of Books in return for my honest review.
June 15, 2011
An american nurse with a past she would like to bury and forget, begins corresponding with a soldier who is also a doctor. Then her diance returns and she discovers that the man she was corresponding with isn't who she thought. But she has fallen in love with him. Then all hell breaks lose.
After reading Happily Ever After a few years back (it is one of those books that are too good to review, but I have to try and do it someday), I thought Susan May Warren might well be one of my most favorite authors in the christian fiction genre. After reading this book, I'm sure of it.
This is an incredible story. There is danger and romance and God in this book.
Everyone is broken in this book. The war has come and interrupted their lives and now that it is finally over and they can go back to whoever they were before it happened, they find that they can't. Gils miss their dead fiancees. Mother can't find their sons. The soldiers have lost legs and arms and their sanity. They dream of bombs, they hear cries in their sleep.
Esther, the heroine, is sure God is angry with her. She needs to be found out. She needs forgiveness.
Peter is a boy who is a very long way from home. He too needs to be found. He also needs forgiveness.
And Linus. And Caroline. And Rosie. And Mrs. Hahn.
And the reader.
Perhaps there were too many descriptions of the characters' inner thoughts, because I found myself skipping pages containing information I had already been told or had guessed already. That was my only problem with this book, but truth be told it didn't bother me at all. And I can see how that might be necessary for some readers, to understand how God speaks to the human soul, and how much attention you must pay to be able to hear Him. I was truly blessed by this book, I learned a lot about forgiveness and second chances. And who doesn't need both these things?
I really hated the injustice pictured in the story, the prejudice and the terrible injustice. But that is what a good book is supposed to make happen. It's supposed to make you angry, to make you want to cry, to make you smile. To make you feel. And I certainly felt a lot of things while reading this one, from anger, to joy, to sadness, to elation, to thankfulness.
Romance is always my weak spot when it comes to book, and I am happy to report that the romance in this book was breathtaking. It actually took my breath away in one scene, I am not exaggerating. It was tender and sweet and caring. Like the way God treats us.
P.S. Don't let the bookcover mislead you, the heroine is actually a very sweet, humble, caring woman. I almost didn't buy this book because of its cover, but I am sooo glad I overlooked it.
I first reviewed this book on my blog
April 1, 2011