Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Synopsis: Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
I was drawn into The Nightingale by the combination of its stunning cover, time period, and setting, but I was captivated by the beautifully written story itself. This is not just another story of World War II, but a story of fear, love, courage, friendship, family, suffering, and the strength of women.
The Nightingale covers the entire time span of the second world war in a way that made me feel even more understanding for the characters themselves. You get the sense of how long the war actually was, and I found myself feeling tired – not of the story – but tired for the characters themselves and everything they were going through. It made their struggle so much more realistic and gave me a new appreciation for how they managed to survive – even the people who were not put in concentration camps.
Kristin Hannah beautifully portrayed the growth and change of the two main characters over the span of the war. Vianne starts out as someone who chooses to push away and ignore hardships in order to maintain a positive life, which caused me to prefer her sister Isabelle, who never hesitates to stand up for what she believes in. Throughout the novel though, Vianne perseveres through hardships of her own, and the change in her is clear as she begins taking risks to protect her loved ones, and then gradually, risks to protect strangers as well. I felt pride in her character for the values she learned and her determination to do what was right despite her fear. Isabelle was seen as rash and naïve to start with, but I admired her the whole time. She is a character who was willing to put herself in danger to make a difference, which is someone I hope to be in my own life. Through her work for the resistance she grows into herself as well and also learns many valuable lessons.
I love that this book shows a different side of the war. I love that it shows the important role women played – a role that is not as well known because their actions live in the shadow of the soldiers in the armies. I love that it shows that not every German was evil; that many of them didn’t know what they were getting into upon joining the army, and then found themselves unable to stop the atrocities – only able to do right in small acts of kindness hidden from their superiors, all the while just wanting to return to their families. I love the way love built character, and the way love stretched across borders, religions, and suffering.
The Nightingale is beautiful and heart-wrenching and I can tell that it will stay with me for a very long time. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
Have you read The Nightingale? What did you think?