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 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. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
I finished reading Kristin Hannah’s novel, “The Nightingale” two days ago. I stayed awake until midnight, knowing that I would be up with my son at 6:30am just to finish The Nightingale. I normally don’t pick up war novels or writing that I know will inevitably break my heart, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t even read the synopses before I checked it out at the library. I walked to the library after a couple glasses of wine and was feeling carefree and picking books because of the titles and their covers. I’m glad I was slightly buzzed when picking books that day, otherwise I may have put this one back on the shelf due to the tragic time period.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate emotional reads, it’s just that I have to prepare myself for the investment. I do this to protect myself because my anxiety can be triggered by high-intensity, emotionally intense topics.
I started reading and from the first chapter I was engrossed in the story. Hannah is a very gifted writer her, I dare you to read the first chapter of Nightingale, because if you do, there is no turning back.
I don’t want to give any of the plot away and there is nothing I can tell you that the synopsis above can’t. Mostly I would like to describe the way this novel made me feel. And to put it lightly – it reached into my chest, gripped my heart with such intensity that I shook during various scenes. It literally left me rattled (in a good way?). I think part of the reason I was such an emotional wreck while reading this book is because I’m a mother now, and imagining some of the decisions that the women in this novel had to make or the “choiceless choices” just slayed me.
This is a book that will linger around the edges of my memory forever. Someone will mention World War 2 and I will instantly think of Hannah’s characters in Nightingale. Through her story we get a very real, raw glimpse of Nazi occupied France from 1939-1944.
After reading Nightingale I’m reminded that even though it was a “tough” read about the stark ugliness of human history, it is our responsibility to momentarily take off our blinders and confront the past. It is our job to remember.
I normally sign my book reviews with “Happy reading”, but with Nightingale you will not be “happy” while reading, so I leave you with:
COVER IMAGE FOUND HERE.