The Nightingale|Book Review

The Nightingale – Published 2015

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.” – Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

This was my second novel by Kristin Hannah (previously read and reviewed The Great Alone), though it was the one that was first recommended to me (by pretty much everyone I know). For whatever reason I was hesitant to read this one because historical fiction is not my genre of choice, and I had it in my head that this was set in WWI, not WWII. I am pretty interested in WWII and Holocaust stories, and honestly had no idea that’s what this one was about, so I put it off for a very long time. That being said, I am so glad I finally gave in.

I vividly remember having to interview someone who was alive during WWII for an American History project in high school. I interviewed my nana, and can recall her telling me about rations and sometimes the butcher would only have bones, and that was in the United States, not even in France when it was occupied by the Germans. That interview has always stuck with me, and throughout my reading of this novel all I could think about was how awful it must have been for everyone.

Kristin Hannah has a way of bringing you into her stories, really sucking you in. While I an sometimes intimidated by larger books (because hello, you could read 3 in the time it takes you to read one), I cruised through this one pretty quickly, all 560+ pages. Her characters are so compelling, and it is very evident that she did her research for this one. It felt very authentic and emotionally charged. I spent a good portion of this book with my hand over my mouth or on top of my head in shock. You learn about this time period when you’re a teenager, but it really should be taught again in your adult years, when you can really understand what it meant to be ripped from your home, taken away from your family, stripped of your possessions, shaved, starved, beaten, and so, so alone. I read a lot of Holocaust stories as a kid, but now, as a mother – it took on a whole new meaning.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

Spoiler Alert coming! I was super annoyed that Vianne didn’t get recognized at the end at that banquet. She risked her life to save 19 Jewish children. Maybe it was her modesty, but it really agitated me.

Kristin Hannah has a way of really kicking you when you’re down. This isn’t a criticism, and it’s not something I necessarily dislike, it’s just an observation. In both books of hers that I’ve read I’ve had a moment where I thought, “This has to be the worst of it”, and it never is. There’s always something more coming to rip your heart out. Another spoiler alert: for me, that moment was when Daniel/Ari is taken away. Ugh! Gut wrenching.

Everyone really hyped this up to me as being a book that would make me cry a lot, and it did to some extent, but it was nothing like The Great Alone. I was uncontrollably sobbing in that book, whereas this one just made me tear up a few times.

Overall, an excellent book that I regret waiting so long to read! 5 stars!

5 star

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