The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, published May 2015 by Pan Macmillan.
Read: June 2015
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: France, 1939. In the quiet, rural village of Carriveau, Vianne says goodbye to her husband as he heads for the Front. The invading Nazi soldiers have arrived in droves with their trucks and tanks. Planes fill the skies, dropping bombs on the innocent. When a German captain requisitions her home, Vianne is forced to make one impossible sacrifice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s rebellious sister Isabelle is searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians flee the city, Isabelle meets and falls in love with Gaetan, a committed partisan. When war separates them, Isabelle joins the Resistance, risking her life time and again to save others.
The Nightingale tells the story of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, courage, passion and circumstance – each one embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in an occupied, war-torn country. Heartbreakingly beautiful, it is a novel that celebrates the resilience of the female spirit.
THIS BOOK IS LIFE. There, I’m so glad I got that off my chest. OK, first of all I love me some WW2 fiction, I really don’t know why, it’s not exactly a pleasant topic is it? But I am so drawn to books set in this period. I’d been eyeing this up for ages when Brandie and Lindsey both highly recommended this read, and finally convinced me to give it a go. Ultimately? It BROKE me.
Where do you even start with this book? First of all, I have seen this categorised as a historical romance, but if you aren’t a Romance fan, please don’t let that put you off. This is much, much more than a Romance novel. It’s heavily layered with an intricately woven story that follows the lives of quite a few characters over a long time frame, so there is plenty of character development within these pages. It’s also told through dual POV, in a way. The story follows both sisters and their lives during the war in France, but also has chapters set in 1995 that are narrated by an older woman living in America. It isn’t until the end of the novel that we discover who this woman is, and a lot of plot points come together for big emotional reveals. This keeps a certain element of mystery going throughout the book, which only adds to an already perfect pace and structure, in my opinion.
Hannah is a fantastic writer. This book is packed with amazing relationships, friendships and hardships, and while it isn’t a short book as such, at no time did I feel bored. The story never slowed, there is never any info-dumping, the reader is taken on an amazing journey with these characters, and ultimately we end up feeling as if we know them on a very personal level. While this story can be heart-breaking and soul-destroying (I cried and felt pained on more than one occasion) it’s also a story of hope, and of strength. Of resilience, and bravery. Of sacrifice, and courage. It’s the seemingly untold story of the women who were left behind during WW2 – while the men fought at the Front, the women were fighting at home.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and I desperately need more books by Hannah in my life.
“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.”
“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.”
“I know that grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.”
Have you read The Nightingale? Did you love it? Do you have any other Hannah recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!