The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was a book club pick that was such a moving story.
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 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.
I knew The Nightingale was going to be good because it was a Goodreads choice winner and it has a staggering amount of five star ratings with an average rating of 4.53 (which is really high). However, I was still floored with how much I enjoyed it. From the very first chapter, I was intrigued about the old woman’s story, which transports the reader back to World War II France.
I loved how this story shed light on the women’s side of the war. I went through a holocaust phase when I was younger where I read anything and everything about that awful time in history, but I’ve never read a story quite like this, where it’s focused not on the men on the front lines, or the jews in concentration camps, but the French men and women living in a war torn country.
This story of two very different sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, was compelling, historically accurate and heart-wrenching. I couldn’t put it down as the stakes were raised higher and higher as France became a nazi-occupied nation. I cheered, I cried, I laughed, I gasped in surprise. This story was a whole range of emotions.
I read the last chapter with tears running down my face. It was too much. I’ve never felt such hope and despair at the same time, such hurt but acceptance. The ending had a truly unique twist that filled my heart to bursting. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction but be prepared for waterworks in the end.
This book was truly beautiful and deserves all five stars.
STARS: 5 out of 5