The Nightingaleby Kristin Hannah Published 03 Feb 2015
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
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In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.
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.
"The Nightingale" Reviews
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”
I really didn't know what to expect going into The Nightingale. Given the quote about love and war in the blurb, I kind of thought it might be an historical romance set during the Second World War - like the world really needs another The Bronze Horseman - but it turned out to be so much more than that.
There are love stories in The Nightingale, but that's not really what the book is about. It's about women in wartime, and it's an interesting, moving portrait of the Nazi occupation of France and what this meant for all the wives, daughters and widows left behind. We're told in the book that men always assume war is about them - it's true - so this is the untold story of the home front.
These are the women who are forced to house Nazi soldiers, the women who are manipulated into betraying their friends, the women who wish they could fight for their country and the women who secretly do. The main story is about two very different sisters - Vianne and Isabelle - who are trying to survive during wartime.
Vianne is older and misses her husband (who is in a Nazi war camp); she must deal with her rebellious younger sister and the Nazi soldier living in her home, whilst also making sure her daughter doesn't starve. Isabelle is one of those borderline insufferable characters that also inspires affection. She reminds me of fiery, annoying, but ultimately lovable heroines like Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind and Kitty from The Painted Veil. The best thing about her, though, is her growth. She starts out a naive 18 year old who falls in love with handsome young men instantly, and she later grows into someone wiser. I loved the way her characterization was handled.
On that note about falling in love, this book throws up a number of red herrings. When Isabelle instantly falls for Gaetan, I was rolling my eyes and thinking "oh great. It's that kind of book." But don't worry, that isn't the story being told here and Isabelle has a lot to learn. It's a multilayered book and none of the relationships are straight forward.
And it's also incredibly sad and moving in parts, as a book about war generally is. Children in wartime are forced to grow up so fast in order to survive. Take, for example, this exchange between Vianne and her daughter:
“Vianne cupped Sophie’s thin face in her hands. “Sarah died last night,” she said gently.
“Died? She wasn’t sick.”
Vianne steeled herself. “It happens that way sometimes. God takes you unexpectedly. She’s gone to Heaven. To be with her grandmère, and yours.”
Sophie pulled away, got to her feet, backed away. “Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
Vianne hated what she saw in her daughter’s eyes right now. There was nothing young in her gaze—no innocence, no naïveté, no hope.”
You really get a sense of how the Nazis took over the lives of the French people. How it was subtle and manipulative, built on fear. They gradually caused divisions within communities, scaring people into betraying their friends.
It wasn't a perfect book, if there is such a creature. There were some slow parts that could have been shortened or edited out all together. And I wish the author hadn't used a bunch of American terms and measurements. For example, a "cup" measurement is not used in France. But whatever, I enjoyed it a lot.
In the silence between them, she heard a frog croak and the leaves fluttering in a jasmine-scented breeze above their heads. A nightingale sang a sad and lonely song.
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This book wrecked me. Let me say that again, It WRECKED me. I have never cried so hard while reading a book. It was beyond amazing, beyond moving and it’s a story I will never forget.
I’m sure you’ve heard of this book. It’s been hyped ever since it came out & will amazing reason. I’ve stayed away from it because of the hype & because I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction but I was so glad to be proved wrong on both accounts.
This is a book that will grip you from the minute you start it and will not let you go. It makes you feel for every single character and it shows you the journey of 2 sisters who live in France when WWII begins. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; this book is brutal. It shows you the horrors of war, the scary, horrible things that happen. These 2 sisters went through the worst things possible. 🏙
Suffice to say I loved this book. It’s by far my favorite book of the year ( and if I’m honest I don’t think anything will top it.) and it will be a favorite for life. If your hesitant to pick it up please don’t. It will change your life, it will make you sob, but it will make you hope and make you fall in love.
SERIOUSLY READ IT RIGHT NOW!
I probably won’t ever shut up about this book, sorry in advance.
Just kidding I’m not sorry, it’s amazing and everyone should read it.
It was the comparisons to All the Light We Cannot See that attracted me to The Nightingale. Though both novels are set during WW2 the similarities for me stopped there. All the Light is a magical novel electric with beautiful resounding prose and refined artistry; The Nightingale is a novel motored essentially by cliché and exaggeration.
Clichéd writing isn’t just resorting continually to stock phrases (though Hannah does this a lot); it’s also straining for tension through exaggeration to the point where dramatic tension degenerates into melodrama. No surprise that clichéd phrases often perform a task of exaggeration. - “She was scared to death.” “She couldn’t believe her eyes.”
The Nightingale reads like YA fantasy fiction. Everything is wildly exaggerated so that WW2 is perceived as a kind of post nuclear holocaust world where this one event utterly eclipses the world we live in. The perspective of the novel is one of hindsight as if all the characters are experiencing not the daily hardships of the war but the totality of all WW2’s horrors. It’s like her research consisted of jotting down every single horror story and deprivation and shoe-horning them all into her story. It’s mostly set in a small town in the middle of France yet this small town is “swarming” with German soldiers, Gestapo, SS, Jews, bomb damage as if the entire war is centred there (I was only surprised Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t have a holiday home there as well). The two main characters are loaded with the ordeals & accomplishments of an entire circuit of resistance members. Isabelle is every SOE heroine rolled into one and Vianne is a kind of female Schindler.
Plausibility is often sacrificed to “thrills and spills”. In the space of three pages a Jewish woman is told the Nazis will arrive at her house the next morning. Three paragraphs later – or two hours later - she has magically acquired false identity papers. Three paragraphs later she is about to cross through a peaceful checkpoint when inexplicably the German guard begins machine gunning everyone as if he got bored just checking papers. He even takes the trouble to shoot the woman’s nine year old child in the back. This is all passed off without explanation as if it were a normal wartime incident.
The big surprise though is that the ending is genuinely moving and really well managed. Hence all the gushing reviews. Basically to enjoy this you need to anaesthetize your critical faculties. That done I guess there’s enjoyment to be had because Hannah is a decent storyteller and is good at developing human relationships. No doubt it’ll soon be a Hollywood film.
I almost didn't read this book and it would have been my loss if I didn't, because I would have missed out on knowing Isabel and Vianne , and the story of their indescribable bravery and volition to save lives in their roles in the French Resistance during WWII. Oh I know this is a work of fiction and these two women are characters in a novel . But I also know as history tells us there were real men and women risking their lives doing the very same things Isabel and Vianne did . A recent article tells how Hannah based the story on real events and real people .
"The subject of “The Nightingale” was an outgrowth of research Hannah had done for her earlier novel “Winter Garden,” when she came across information about a Resistance heroine — the 19-year-old Belgian woman Andrée de Jongh. This brave teenager, inspired in turn by the earlier World War I heroine Edith Cavell, established the Comet Escape Line, a secret network of people who risked their lives to help Allied servicemen escape over the Pyrenees to Spain.
De Jongh’s story inspired Hannah to conduct further research into the French Resistance, finding stories about women who had put themselves and their children in peril by hiding Jewish families. And de Jongh became the model for Isabelle, the younger sister, who, as “the Nightingale,” personally led downed Allied pilots over the mountains to safety." ( Seattle Times February 22, 2015)
The story is all encompassing in many ways , depicting not only the war , the holocaust, the suffering and starvation, the death , the concentration camps , the emotional, physical and mental toll on people and the unrelentingly will of the people in the Resistance . We see the depth of friendship between Vianne and Rachel , a mother's or father's love for their children and the sacrifices they will make to save them with Vianne and Sophia and with Julian and Isabel and we see the raw innocence of first love that becomes a deeper love with Isabel and Gaetan .
I almost didn't read this because I had previously read two other books by Hannah , one of which I loved and one that I didn't , but I could not continue to ignore the 4 and mostly 5 star ratings that so many of my Goodreads friends gave this book . These are friends who are drawn to the same books that I have loved . I'm glad I paid attention to them .
My Goodreads friend Evelyn said that by the end of the book she couldn't breathe. I think that she described the feeling perfectly. I wonder why it is that the books that make me feel like I can't breathe are the ones that I love the most . I think it's because these books evoke the feelings that make us human. In this case it is a story that begs us to remember what happened. I couldn't recommend it more .
I don't even know where to start this review. I am typing it through teary eyes, so I will keep it simple. (Insert tissues here)
My pick for Vianne when this becomes a movie is Naomi Watts or Kate Winslet and for Isabella is Julianne Hough or Amanda Seyfried. Let's see if Hollywood takes my suggestion!
This WW2 novel was so beautifully written. This war was a time of bitter hatred and in this story Kristin Hannah brings to life love, survival, bitterness, strength, and persistence.
Vianne and Isabelle are the most outstanding characters I've ever read. It would be an honor to know them if they were real. I have so much more I could add but I will not because it would take so much of my review.
This is a story that will make you cry and have hope in believing that if you keep stepping forward and never looking back you will make it.
I highly recommend this book. It's absolutely wonderful and a gorgeous story. I will cherish it always as it is now one of my top 3 favorites :)
I'm looking forward to this movie becoming a film. I will be there opening night :) in the front row!!!