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.
Where to start with this book...it honestly blew me away and left me in tears. Very few books have done that to me and I think that alone shows how unbelievably powerful this story is. Not only is it impossible to put down and completely immerses you in this tragic time in our not so distant history, it highlights the countless ways that so many women played their roles during World War II and how underestimated they were, which to be honest, was nearly their gift. It gives a much needed spotlight on the may unheard stories of a dark time and Hannah does an outstanding job and giving these stories and these heroes a voice.
Page 1 of the book already sets the tone for how powerful and heart breaking this story will be; 'In love we found out who we want to be, in war we find out who we are.' So many people carried so many secrets and burdens from the war, which meant that it never really ended for them. Many people were forced to do unspeakable acts that would define them for the rest of the their lives. As it is so nicely put on page 1; The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present. Hannah paints the picture of this epic story with so few words, but with words that will stay with the reader for a long time.
Hannah gives us a perspective of World War II that many people probably don't know a lot about. The focus is usually on the Holocaust and I have read so many fantastic books that have opened my eyes to the true horrors of what happened then. However, The Nightingale takes us to the remote towns of France and to the streets of Paris and gives us an unbelievable insight into all that the French endured during such a harrowing time. it clearly portrays how far stretched World War II was and the many many lives it changed forever.
This is a story of love, sisterhood, loyalty, courage and grit. It was not just about the many roles women played in the war and how underestimated they were, but it is also a beautiful story about the power and strength of sisterhood. I am the oldest of three girls and found some of the moments between Vianne and Isabelle so heart breaking. The bond between sisters is so strong and this story is a beautiful account of how not even a war can come between the strongest of sisters.
I loved the whole book but there is so much packed in the last 100 pages and they totally give the book the final star that it deserves. Just when you thought it couldn't get more harrowing or upsetting, Hannah throws another curveball at you. The ending is both happy and sad and I honestly bawled my eyes out, so have the tissues ready. As I said, I never cry from books but Hannah succeeded in getting right into my heart and soul.
This review could honestly go on forever but I feel that it wouldn't do this book justice (and I don't want to spoil anything!). From the beautiful writing, to the strong characters, to the endless twists towards the end, Hannah hooks you in right from the beginning and doesn't let you go until you've turned the final page and see the final words through teary eyes.
Just read the book. You won't regret it. Hannah is a writer for the ages and I am already deciding which of her other books to read next (all suggestions welcome!).
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
'Men tell stories...Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over. Your sister was as desperate to forget it as I was. Maybe that was another mistake I made - letting her forget. Maybe we should have talked about it.'
Isabelle, I was torn between choosing between her and Vianne but I loved Isabelle's spirit and tenacity. Such an excellent character!
SPOILERS INCLUDED BELOW
Don't read the below section if you haven't read the book yet. This section goes into more detail on certain things that I'd be curious to know if others who read the book felt the same.
1. Herr Beck - I was so torn between my feelings about him...I hated in for what he stood for but I also found times where I was nearly rooting for the forbidden romance that could happen between him and Vianne...even now I'm still not sure where I sit...
2. The Underestimation of Women - I was so frustrated and angry that the Germans would rather believe Isabelle and Vianne's old and broken father was the Nightingale. It so clearly showed that they didn't even want to entertain the idea that a woman could outsmart them. God forbid that could actually happen! Similarly with how some of the fallen pilots refused to follow Isabell's orders...come one!
3. Isabelle's End - Finding out that Isabelle died so soon after the war broke me. I was convinced she was the narrator for most of the book and then to find out she died in Gaetan's arms...that was a serious punch to the heart.
4. Remembering Isabelle - Finding out that Gaetan named his daughter Isabelle...such a lovely way to remember her and show how important she truly was to him.
5. Heart Breaking Reunions - Vianne being reunited with Ari was such a beautiful scene. I normally get a bit cynical about happy endings but due to the horrendous things that happened throughout the story, I loved this! Also sent me into floods of tears - that last 100 pages is a blur because you're reading through tears for most of it!