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20 Riveting Books Like “The Nightingale” To Stir Your Soul

Find Your Next Page-Turner With These Historical Novels Similar to "The Nightingale"
by The Blinkist Team | Apr 2 2024

20 Historical Novels Like The Nightingale To Inspire You

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah is a gripping story set during World War II, following the lives of two sisters in France who exhibit defiance and bravery in different ways while living under Nazi occupation. This novel has captured the hearts of readers globally due to its compelling combination of historical depth, emotional resonance, and the portrayal of human resilience.

If you’re looking for more books that blend historical events with powerful tales of survival, courage, and the complexities of the human spirit, then we have curated a list of 20 such books for you. Take a journey through time with these stories that resonate with the spirit of “The Nightingale.”

Top 20 best books to read if you liked “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah


1. “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

A blind French girl and a German soldier’s lives intersect in occupied France as both try to survive the devastations of World War II.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Set against the backdrop of World War II.
  • Stories of survival amidst war.
  • Beautiful, evocative prose that delves into the human condition.


2. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Liesel, a foster girl living outside of Munich during WWII, finds solace in stealing books and sharing them with her neighbors and the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • The power of hope and literature during wartime.
  • A personal story set within a larger historical event.
  • Themes of resistance against Nazi oppression.


3. “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay

A journalist’s investigation into the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of 1942 in France uncovers a connection to a young Jewish girl named Sarah, revealing a tragic and compelling story of survival.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Dual timelines that reveal past horrors and present discoveries.
  • The impact of WWII on France and its people.
  • Stories of courage and resilience.


4. “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly

Inspired by real-life events, this novel reveals the intersecting lives of three women during WWII, highlighting the sacrifices and challenges faced by those in the resistance.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Female protagonists facing the horrors of war.
  • Historical events inspiring acts of defiance and bravery.
  • The exploration of sisterhood and friendship during difficult times.


5. “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn

In this gripping historical novel, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during WWI and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Strong female characters involved in spy networks.
  • The inclusion of historically significant events.
  • A narrative of courage, resilience, and redemption.


6. “The Bronze Horseman” by Paullina Simons

Set in Leningrad in 1941, this epic love story follows Tatiana and Alexander, a young couple facing the siege of Leningrad, fighting for survival and love.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Love and war as central themes.
  • Epic historical settings with rich detail.
  • Characters forced into situations requiring immense bravery and sacrifice.


7. “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein

A British female spy captured in Nazi-occupied France tells her story of friendship and espionage through written confessions.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Female protagonists in covert roles during WWII.
  • A deep friendship that sustains through war’s darkness.
  • Elements of suspense and the ethics of wartime.


8. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Through a series of letters, this novel unfolds the story of Juliet Ashton and her interactions with the residents of Guernsey, revealing experiences of WWII occupation.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • The impact of WWII on communities.
  • The power of literature to connect and heal.
  • A narrative built around letters and personal revelations.


9. “The Paris Architect” by Charles Belfoure

An architect in Nazi-occupied Paris is asked to design hiding places for Jews, leading to moral awakenings and dangerous dilemmas.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Explores the moral complexities of life under Nazi occupation.
  • Features acts of unexpected bravery.
  • Set in occupied France during WWII.


10. “City of Thieves” by David Benioff

During the siege of Leningrad, two young men embark on an impossible quest for eggs, leading to an unlikely friendship and adventures amidst the horrors of war.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • A focus on the human spirit amidst the suffering of siege.
  • Elements of humor and humanity in dark times.
  • The theme of unexpected friendships formed during wartime.


11. “Suite Française” by Irène Némirovsky

Written during Nazi occupation and discovered years later, this novel explores life under occupation through the interconnected lives of Parisians and their rural neighbors.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • A narrative mosaic showing the impact of war on various lives.
  • Set in France during Nazi occupation.
  • Themes of human dignity, resilience, and resistance.


12. “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

Set in London during and after WWII, this novel follows four characters whose lives intersect in surprising ways, revealing the challenges and recoveries experienced during the war.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • The aftermath of war and its impact on individuals.
  • Unconventional relationships formed during difficult times.
  • A non-linear narrative that reveals depth in character connection.


13. “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan

Based on a true story, this novel tells the tale of an Italian teenager who becomes a driver for a Nazi general and a spy for the Allied forces during WWII.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • A young protagonist becoming involved in espionage against Nazis.
  • Based on remarkable true wartime experiences.
  • Themes of bravery, sacrifice, and the resilience of youth.


14. “The Orphan’s Tale” by Pam Jenoff

Set in Germany during WWII, this novel revolves around two women—a Jewish infant’s guardian and a circus aerialist—who find refuge and purpose in a traveling circus.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Female protagonists protecting children from Nazi persecution.
  • The theme of finding safety and identity in unlikely places.
  • Acts of defiance and resistance against oppressors.


15. “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

Spanning several decades, this novel explores a young girl’s fatal accusation that changes the lives of two lovers, leading up to and during WWII.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • The long-lasting impact of decisions made in youth.
  • Love and war intertwined themes.
  • A deep dive into character psychology and the consequences of war.


16. “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson

Ursula Todd is born in 1910 and dies repeatedly, living through the events of the 20th century, including WWII, each time with the chance to alter her fate.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • A unique narrative structure exploring different war scenarios.
  • Themes of resilience, fate, and the impact of war.
  • The exploration of how individual lives intersect with historical events.


17. “The Last Train to London” by Meg Waite Clayton

Focused on the kindertransport effort that saved thousands of children from Nazi-occupied territories, this novel tells the story of one woman’s battle against the impending war to save as many children as she can.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Based on true historical events and figures.
  • Themes of courage and the striving to save the innocent.
  • The exploration of the impact of war on families.


18. “The Light Over London” by Julia Kelly

A forgotten diary unites two women across generations—one a female gunner in WWII, the other dealing with her own battles in the present—as they discover themselves and their strengths in the face of adversity.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • Dual timelines that connect the past and present.
  • Women in unconventional roles during war.
  • Themes of discovery, strength, and resilience.


19. “The Women in the Castle” by Jessica Shattuck

Set in post-WWII Germany, this novel explores the lives of three widows whose husbands were involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler, as they navigate survival and moral ambiguity in the war’s aftermath.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • The complexities of life after WWII.
  • Female perspectives on war and its effects.
  • Moral dilemmas and the struggle for survival.


20. “Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys

As thousands flee the advancing Russian army in East Prussia, four teenagers’ paths converge as they board the Wilhelm Gustloff, seeking freedom and safety.

Elements in common with The Nightingale:

  • A focus on lesser-known WWII events.
  • Young characters facing immense hardship and making desperate decisions.
  • Stories of hope, sacrifice, and survival amid war’s chaos.

In conclusion, these books like “The Nightingale” promise to transport you through the harsh realities and profound emotions of historical events, exploring the depths of human resilience, courage, and the intricate tapestry of lives affected by war.

Each narrative, rich with detail and emotional depth, offers a new lens through which to view the past, ensuring that the stories of yesterday continue to resonate and inspire. So pick your next adventure, immerse yourself in history, and let these stories stir your soul. Happy reading!


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