Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannnah

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 464
Genres: Historical Fiction

The Nightingale

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.
When am I going to learn that books about WW2 are going to leave me in a sobbing mess? It is needless to say how powerfully moving The Nightingale is, much like other books chronicling similar subject matter.

I love how the story here is essentially about women's experiences in war. Vianne and Isabelle's lives are ripped apart in similar, yet different ways in Nazi occupied France. I found Vianne's story the most compelling because what she had to endure was the most common experience many women of the time would have shared. Vianne is a devoted wife and mother, just trying to keep her daughter fed and warm whilst keeping hope alive for her husband to return. Being forced to live with a Nazi officer, watching food become ever scarcer, and witnessing the atrocities slowly unfold around Vianne and Isabelle was torturous. Isabelle both infuriated and inspired me in equal measures.

I loved that through the Nazi officer living with Vianne, the enemy perspective is brought to this book. The reader is faced with confronting the reality that these German soldiers are human too, with families - a fact often forgotten when nothing but evil and death surrounds their wake.

I like how the reader is unsure of who the elderly lady is in the beginning of the book. It really piques the readers interest right away. The resolution in the last chapter was so heartwarming yet very sad at the same time and by the time I closed The Nightingale, it was with bittersweet emotions. At times I found the writing style a bit too simple, and I felt the pacing was slow at times but the ending truly raised this book for me.

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