Thursday, January 28, 2016

*Review* The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Photo Credit: Goodreads
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published:  February 3, 2015
Pages: 449
Setting: Paris and Carriveau, France


In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

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.

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.


This book utterly destroyed me. I read about the last five percent of the book in the morning right after waking up (the day after I was supposed to have it finished for our first book club meeting this month), and was completely useless for the rest of the day. I could not bring myself to do anything aside from feed my children (and I might not have done that had they not started whining about being hungry). That is not a normal reaction for me at all. 

The story alternates between the POVs of two sister's in France that lead very different lives during the war. Ivan does her best to keep her head down and stay mostly invisible to protect her daughter, while her sister, Isabelle, wants to rush off and join the resistance. As much as I want to believe that I'd be like Isabelle during the war because she's courageous and truly making a difference, I found myself relating to Vianne far more. 

I enjoyed how this book gave us insight into the lives of women and children in occupied France during the war. I learned about rationing in history class, I've even seen a couple of my grandmother's leftover ration books, but neither of those things taught me the reality of that rationing in Europe (and I realize this is a fictional account, but I'm trusting that the author did her research on this matter). This book was definitely eye opening for me.

Overall I give The Nightingale 5 out of 5 stars because it was engrossing, devastating, and a little bit enlightening. I would definitely recommend it to others who enjoy WWII era fiction. As an additional note, the ladies in my book club, all of whom claim to not enjoy historical fiction in general, loved this book. One of them even said she thinks it's the best book the book club has read yet. - Katie 

Buy the Book

About the Author

Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one novels, including the blockbuster Firefly Lane and #1 bestsellers Night Road and Home Front. She is a former lawyer turned writer and is the mother of one son. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii with her husband.


As this book takes place in France, I used it to fulfill my Book Set in Europe category for the Popsugar reading challenge this year. 

Other categories it could fulfill include
A New York Times Bestseller (47 weeks on the list)
A book with a blue cover (kind of, blue-ish)

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