Written by Kristin Hannah
Published by St. Martins Press, February 3, 2015
My star rating – 4 stars
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. Find it on Goodreads
I finished this book a few weeks ago and, I have to say, I’m glad I waited so long to write the review. If I was to review this book immediately it would have been a completely different set of thoughts. Right after I finished it I knew that I liked it. Liked, but not loved. There were a few things that didn’t amaze me and I had a small problem with it. But the more time i’ve spent away from the book, the more I realize just how much of it stuck with me. I’ve found myself remembering things, scenes, and people, in the most fond of ways. Apparently I liked this one more than I initially thought!
I want to first point out that I LOVED the writing style! Kristin Hannah is a highly respected author and I’ve yet to read her books, but now I know why so many people talk about her! Her writing was so smooth and subtle. It was strange how the smallest of sentences could indicate so much. She always gave just the right amount of detail to create a vivid image without being overwhelming and tiresome.
This is a book about two sisters living in the same war but in very different circumstances. Their age gap had created a bit of a road block in the growth of their sisterhood. While one was focusing on school, the other was married and having a child. As they grew though, the sisters were hoping for a chance to rebuild that lost time together. Suddenly, France was invaded by Germany and their lives got complicated. Vianne had just sent her husband off to war and Isabelle had run away from school. The two came together so they support each other through this new way of “Nazi occupied” life.
Isabelle had other ideas though. She wasn’t ready to just sit and wait out the war. She wanted to do something about it. Vianne took a different approach and decided to stay at home and care for her daughter, hoping that she would be able to keep her home safe and her and her daughter alive long enough to see the war through. In the end, both women took VERY DIFFERENT paths, but both risked their lives. They weren’t fearless about it either, which I loved. There was plenty of fear as these women took steps to resist the Nazi occupation. One was just a little more direct about it!
This was a bit of a slow burning story…. but not really at the same time. That’s confusing to say, I know, but I don’t really know how else to explain it. This book was written more to showcase their daily lives in real time. It wasn’t all go-go-go, bombs exploding, people dying, etc. There would be full chapters sometimes just outlining their daily trips to the butcher in hopes that there would be some sort of edible meat available. There was still bombs, death, adventure, etc, but it was more to walk you through how these women lived. THAT was where the impact of this book comes from. Yes, ok, there were still emotional big events, but it was just watching these women, living their daily lives, and taking risks to rebel that really hit home to me.
I think I remember buying this book shortly after it was released. That means that it sat on my shelf for about 5 years before I finally read it. Why you ask? Well, it was one of the most hyped books out there for the longest time and I wanted to separate the hype from my reading experience. But that didn’t stop me from my own expectations lol. Hype suggested that there was a really high emotional impact…. but I missed a little of that. I totally cried (twice I think lol) but there was still something that kept my emotions at arms length. I think that’s because there were quite a few historical fiction books i’ve read that hit me harder I guess.
The biggest problem I had with this book? The ending. I’m not a fan, sorry. I mentioned above that this was more of a book that focus’s on day to day life. There was so much time and effort put into the book as a whole and then it was just over, It was way too abrupt! The author still found a way to tell the reader what the characters went on and did, and how their lives turned out, but I felt like it was a bit of a cop out. There was no picking up the pieces… it was just an explanation of what happened after the pieces were all put together again.
Oh, did I mention that there was a bit of a romance that didn’t make sense to me at all and I really didn’t like it??? Yeah, there was that too.
All in all this was one hell of a way to introduce myself to this author! I will definitely be reading more from her!
Until next time, happy reading!