Belinda’s Book Nook Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Copyright: February 3, 2015
Genre: historical fiction
Format: audio book and book  Narrator: Polly Stone Pages: 438

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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.

My thoughts:

I heard about this book on booktube and had decided I had to buy it. It was one of my books I received from my birthday book haul. I have been meaning to share my haul with you so stay tuned for that. I did something very different with this book. I began reading the physical book and then I downloaded the audio book version on to my iPhone. Some background here, I took Spanish in high school and Japanese in college so to say my French is lacking is quite an understatement. Sadly, I don’t even know where to begin with pronunciation of French words. So after reading a bit, I tried out the audio version and instead of just listening, I followed along in the book.  It was the best thing ever. I was able to hear the correct pronunciation for all the characters and locations in the book. So when I did read without the audio, I sounded pretty darn good in my head!

This book focused on two sisters, Vianne and her sister, Isabelle who lived in a small village called Carriveau beginning in 1939.  The book also jumps to present day in America where one of the sister is speaking of her life today and reflecting on the past and her experience during war time. The death of the girls’ mother puts them both in a predicament with their grieving father and he sends them away.

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

What a way to start this book. I think at some point or other we all think about what it would like to be in war and wonder how we respond. We never truly know until we are thrust into the thick of it. Because so many factors are hard to imagine.

The book explores many things but one thing that sets the two sister’s apart in their journey moving forward is their perception of the relationship they have with their father. Vianne tended to be more forgiving and looks for love and finds it with her husband and little girl. Isabelle’s perception leaves her to constantly run back to her father to seek his love and  his “rejection” eventually develops a strong will in Isabelle that leads her to join forces with the French resistance when Hitler’s regime pushes past the Maginot Line to occupy France. The Maginot Line was miles and miles of concrete walls and obstacle sand weapons that had been constructed along the German border after the Great War to protect France.

One thing I really loved about this book is that is shows the strength both sisters have despite the different paths they choose. They both are very strong women in a very difficult time. I really liked that. I liked that the author didn’t make you feel one was better for the choices they made. They both were amazing women and now that I think about it, all of the women in this book were resilient from Vianne’s Jewish neighbor and best friend, Rachel, to the Mother Marie-Therese at the orphanage, to one of the lead contacts for the Resistance, Micheline. None of these women were simple victims. They made difficult decisions and followed their hearts.

As I write this review, I realize I like this book even more. The detail the author provides, pulls you right in like you are standing there next to the characters. The denial they all felt when Hitler’s regime began invading felt so real. Because when crisis strikes, we always feel a sense of disbelief that it can happen to us. The lack of necessities when the German soldiers invaded and confiscated food and fine goods was written in such a way that it allowed the reader to see the transformation from life before to after the invasion.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s hard to forget,” she said quietly. “And I’ll never forgive.” “But love has to be stronger than hate or there is no future for us.”
– Vianne to Sophie

This quote is Vianne talking to her daughter Sophie about a choice she had to make for their safety. It’s a very raw and heartbreaking part of the book but it helped to keep perspective of the dark realities of the times.

This book is so worth the read, for it isn’t just a book about the war, it’s about people and love, and loss, and redemption and so much more. Just read it already!

I rarely give a 5 butterfly rating but I think that this book did everything it meant to do and more. This was my first Kristin Hannah book that I have read but it was a great first read.

5ratingHappy Reading!


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