Book Review: The Nightingale

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Title: The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah

Publication: St. Martin’s Press

Length: 440 pages

Plot: 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 France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

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 the compelling and mysterious 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. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to 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.

Favorite Quote: “Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain.”

I am finding it a little difficult to review this book because I don’t think I will adequately be able to put in words the impact of this book. Let me try my best!

I decided to read this book after it won the Goodreads readers choice award 2015 for the best historical fiction. When I started the book, all I knew is that this book is about World War 2 highlighting the phase where Germany had occupied France. But the book is much much more than that. The best part of the book that it brings out the hardships that women and children have to face during the war since this is a much neglected aspect. The book begins with the line ‘In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.’

The story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who embark on different journeys during the war. They have starkly different personalities from each other. Isabelle is a pretty looking schoolgirl who has been running away from school a lot of time since she feels abandoned by her father and sister after her Maman’s death. She is determined to join the French Revolution, not caring about the consequences. She is brave, strong, and independent. She is not afraid to say her opinion. I absolutely love Isabelle’s character from the very start. Vianne on the other side is a traditional French Housewife, very tame, grieves easily, trying to keep a low profile, protecting her children. At the beginning I found her character to be spineless but eventually her true character unwinds and I realized how really brave she is. Towards the end she became my favorite character.

The book is narrated over the years. It begins with Antonie, Vianne’s husband leaving for the war and Isabelle running away from school to Paris, where her father lives. Isabelle is sent to Vianne during the war, and that’s when the story picks up. The book perfectly describes the hardships of the war over the years, the lost childhood of the children, the impact on women during the war. There are times when your heart cries, goes out for the people living during the war, it makes you think what would have you done differently if you were in their shoes. It makes you want to save the characters from taking a reckless decision because you know they are at a big risk. It evocates a feeling of love and protection in you and I believe if any book can generate that feeling in the reader, it is a big big compliment to the author.

After reading this book I am so glad that we are not living in wartimes. The hardships are unbearable and every survivor of the war time is a hero by every right. The book is remarkable and I all I can say that I loved it!

Ratings 5/5

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