Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

St. Martin’s Press, 2015

Description(from the author’s website)

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 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 Gaetan, 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.

My Review (5 Stars: Loved It!)

I’m afraid my short review will not do this exceptional novel, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, justice.

The setting is during WWII, German occupied France.  If I didn’t know better, I would think Kristin Hannah actually lived through the experience, it seems so real.  The occupation is such a sad state of affairs.  The Germans took so much from the French.  We easily feel this while reading.  The first half of the novel lays the groundwork for the emotional second half.

Vianne is at home with her daughter Sophie when her husband leaves to fight the war.  They live in the small village Carriveau near an airfield.  Her goal is to survive and stay under the radar of the Germans who occupy her town.  Eighteen year old Isabelle, is sent from Paris, by her father, to live with her older sister, Vianne.

As is often with sisters, they have different personalities and clash.  Isabelle is bold and rash.  Vianne is more timid and unsure.  Isabelle joins the Resistance and returns to Paris.  It is their two remarkable stories, and the intersection of their stories, we follow as they come to learn how important it is to love and express love, as times are fleeting.

The atrocities they both face and their bravery throughout the war is amazing.  This novel will stay with me for a long time to come.

I also want to mention that the artwork for the cover of the hardcover edition of this novel is elegant and suits this novel well.  It has a gold embossed image of a Nightingale and the Eiffel Tower in the dark background.

Kristin Hannah has written many novels (see list below), but this is her personal favorite.  She knows she’s not supposed to say that (See book trailer below).  I have not read her previous novels, but became a fan of hers after reading the intro she wrote for Grand Central.

 First Line

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

What Others Are Saying (from the book cover)

“In this epic novel, set in France in World War II, two sisters who live in a small village find themselves estranged when they disagree about the imminent threat of occupation. Separated by principles and temperament, each must find her own way forward as she faces moral questions and life-or-death choices. Haunting, action-packed, and compelling.”

—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

“A beautifully written and richly evocative examination of life, love, and the ravages of war, and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations–not to mention the terrible and mounting toll of keeping secrets. This powerhouse of a story is equally packed with action and emotion, and is sure to be another major hit. I loved it!”

— Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants

Also by Kristin Hannah

Fly Away

Home Front

Night Road

Winter Garden

True Colors

Firefly Lane

Magic Hour

Comfort & Joy

The Things We Do For Love

Between Sisters

Distant Shores

Summer Island

Angle Falls

On Mystic Lake

Home Again

Waiting for the Moon

When Lightning Strikes

If You Believe

Once in Every Life

The Enchantment

A Handful of Heaven

11 comments

  1. I recently decided to use an Audible credit for this book and hope to listen to it in next few weeks. Reviews such as yours cemented my decision to do so. I have read several of Kristin Hannah’s other books and always enjoyed them. So looking forward to this one, especially since it is her personal favorite. Nice job!

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  2. My sister loves Hannah’s work but says her books should be packed with a box of Kleenex. I haven’t tried any of her books and think I’ll need to be in the right mood to do so.

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  3. I loved this one! As you stated, it’s one that will stay with me for a long time. She came to my bookstore on her tour, and she was just wonderful! I’ve read a few of her other books, I think prior to this one Night Road was my favorite.

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  4. Found you through luzanne’s blog. I am a major book worm and love getting new suggestions especially with a good review behind it! Its gonna take me forever to go through all these past posts 🙂

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  5. Loved this one too. Recently bought a copy to give to my niece for her birthday. I hadn’t looked closely at the cover so thanks for making me go in closer! Winter Garden is another superb book by KH.

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