Novel: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Published: February 3rd 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: 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 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.
I read The Nightingale in the beginning of December, but I’m only getting around to reviewing it now. I know, I’m sorry. It’s not because I didn’t feel like writing one, because I do want to tell you all about this book. I just haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and take the time to do this book justice. But here I am, giving it a try.
This book spans over many years. It starts in our time, with an elderly woman reflecting on her past, saying it’s time to tell her story. That leads us back to the beginning of the second World War, after which we follow the sisters. Occasionally, we get a chapter in the point-of-view of the elderly woman again.
I really like the way the story was told. You got to experience their stories as they lived it, but there was the added mystery of the old woman. She gives you a different perspective on the whole story line because she lives in the U.S. (not a spoiler), which makes you think of who she is, how she got there, etc.
What I love most about the story is that everyone can find themselves in one of the sisters. Vianne is trying to survive, to keep her family together, feed her daughter and pray for her husband to return. For Isabelle, that’s not enough. She hates the Nazis (as everyone does) and wants to help. To do more. What this story truly taught me, is that everyone can help. Every tiny act of kindness helps someone. It may not be the most heroic act ever, but it doesn’t have to be. Kindness can save lives.
This story was so moving. It’s a novel about strength, family, love and sacrifice. It’s absolutely beautiful. I also cried. It’s a moving tale, people. Be prepared!
Vianne. Vianne is the older sister, who lives in Carriveau with her husband and daughter. Her story truly starts when her husband is called to the front, and the Nazis take over her town. Hers is a quiet struggle, one that so many people lived through. She has to survive and raise her daughter through rations which leave barely any food for the French, German soldiers who are living in her home because it’s not like she can refuse, and helping her best friend, Rachel. It’s a struggle anyone who has lived through the war or read about it can recognize.
I really loved Vianne. From the first few pages, I liked her. She was strong, brave and above all, rational. That may seem like a not-so-exciting quality, but it’s so realistic. She hates the Nazis, but she tries her best to act normal because she knows that if she steps out of line, they will take it out on her daughter.
Isabelle, that’s a whole other story. She lives in Paris, but in the beginning of the novel is told to go live with her sister in Carriveau. Isabelle is Vianne’s younger sister, the impulsive one. She’s not very good at controlling her emotions, leading to many stand-offs with the Germans. At first, I disliked Isabelle. Not being able to control herself is dangerous. If it were just her own life she’s risking, fine. But she lives with her sister and niece, so it’s their life she’s risking too! I couldn’t deal with that.
As the story grew however, I learned to love Isabelle. She grows up. She learns when to speak, and when to shut up. She’s undoubtedly brave, and has an enormous amount of willpower. Her story was the most fascinating one, as it is so different from her sister’s. The one thing I did not like was the romance for her. I just didn’t believe it, at all.
This story has so many aspects, aside from the WWII side to it. It’s about inner strength, but also about family. The family dynamics in this novel are so intriguing. Their family definitely isn’t the happiest one, and a lot of things go unsaid. It makes for an even more touching read, because you know how much they love each other, even if they don’t know themselves.
I find that the following quote truly describes this novel, as it is about the lives of women during the war:
“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
I adore this book. I’d recommend it to everyone! It’s a gorgeous story about war, family, survival, friendship and strength. Words can’t describe how much I liked this novel. I knew I had to read it when I saw the first line:
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
By the way, when I realized why this book was called “The nightingale”, I loved it even more.