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Hardcover, 1st Edition, 440 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN 0312577222 (ISBN13: 9780312577223)
Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
My book buddy suggested we read this book last month and I agreed but didn’t really have any great expectations for it. I can honestly say though that The Nightingale completely surpassed any expectations I had and I ended up really enjoying it. I’ll be honest I’ve never read anything by Kristin Hannah before but I just sort of lumped her in with the kind of cheesy “chick-lit” category and so I wasn’t too fussed about her books. I’m not a book snob in anyway and I’m always down to read some chick-lit but I just passed this book off without a second glance when I would see it at the stores.
Boy, let me tell you how wrong I was. As soon as I saw that it was about two sisters in France during World War II I was like okay maybe this won’t be so cheesy. The novel is fictional obviously but it turns out that Hannah based the character of Isabelle on a real life heroine of the war named Andrée de Jongh. She organized the Comet Escape Line, which was a route from Belgium through France to Spain used by hundreds of Allied airmen to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. So while the entire novel is not 100% factual it is very much inspired and based in real events. I’ve seen a lot of people who have issues with the things in the novel that aren’t true or didn’t happen the way that they are described but honestly if you’re like me and don’t truly know a lot about the war it’s not going to affect the way you read this book. I can understand the frustrations some people have felt but this isn’t meant to be a textbook. There’s a difference between reality and novels and so even though this takes place during a real event if you can suspend reality a bit you should be fine with this book.
I think one of my favorite parts of the novel was truly the character development. Not just between the two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle but most of the characters. The way they grew and changed and showed who they truly were was special. It did take quite a while to get there and I did feel like the book dragged on at points. Towards the middle it gets a little repetitive and you feel like nothing is really happening but it picks up as it draws to a close.
I found The Nightingale to be completely harrowing and gut wrenching. It was sad, terrifying, horrifying, and everything in between all throughout. There are twists and turns and even though I figured out one of them before the end it was still completely satisfying. The very last chapter had me crying and I was just so filled with emotion after the whole book. It seems a lot of people have tossed this off as just regular “chick-lit” and therefore don’t think it holds any weight but I don’t feel that way at all.
I’ve already recommended this book to a couple people and I know that it will be one that I continue to recommend from here on out. It’s not a happy fun light-hearted book and the subject matter is very heavy but it’s worth it.
“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.”
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