Friday, 15 April 2016

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Book: The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah

Pages: 437

Read: The paperback edition pictured above

Read in: 4-5 hours

Plot Summary: 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. 

Review and Thoughts: I simply loved this book! It is a very powerful and moving story about strength, sacrifice and the horrors of war- especially, what the one's left behind (women and children) faced. Here are some of the things I loved about this book: 

  • The premise of the book- the lives of women during World War II- was what attracted me to the book. I have enjoyed other books about this period with a similar premise- The Book Thief, Those Who Save Us. So, I was fairly certain that I would enjoy this book as well. 
  • The parallel events in the very different war experiences of Isabelle and Vianne were very interesting and made the 437 odd pages in the book fly by. There is never a dull moment and the narrative is an emotional rollercoaster. 
  • There are many likeable and lovely characters in this book. My favourite is Isabelle. She is gutsy, spunky and I could relate with her need to do something to fight the German occupancy of France. Isabelle's desire to be of service to her country and to not sit by in fear or passivity whilst her country was being overrun by Germans is what led her to a small Resistance group and charted her destiny and her role in the War. Isabelle's experiences, her journey and the role she played to help with the efforts of the Resistance are truly courageous and I am sure there are so many unsung women heroes of the war. 
  • Vianne is someone who shows tremendous growth during the War years. She starts off as someone who is very worried, nervous and in denial about the War- convinced that The Maginot Line would hold and that the Germans would never be able to enter France. However, as the War went on, she found hidden reserves of courage inside of her to deal with not just the multiple changes in how they lived their everyday life but also the more horrific and cruel events and atrocities inflicted by the Germans upon the French. 
  • Other characters like Gaetan, the other members of the Resistance, Vianne's best friend- Rachel and even the kindly German officer Beck were all well etched and their humanity and courage shone through in spite of the terrible circumstances they were all in. 
  • The book moves back and forth between the War years and 1995, when one of the main characters is in the US and has been asked to come to Paris for the 50th Anniversary of the Allied Forces' victory in the War. There is also a bit of suspense, for a while, about who the surviving sister in the US is.. not that that was required.. but it was a nice enough touch.   
Rating: 5/5
I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It is a beautifully written and moving tale of the role women and children played in the War and everything that they suffered during those hard, unprecedented-in-terms-of-cruelty years. 


Krishnokoli S said...

I love books based on WWII, books on resistance, it gives me hope in these dark hours..Thanks for letting us know abut this book, fantastic review as always - tanaya

Pooja T said...

Me too, there is so much to learn from those turbulent times.
i think you'll love this book.
It was a fantastic read :)