☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars☆➹⁀☆☆
What it’s about:
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.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a story of strong women doing whatever it takes to survive the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. It is a historic fiction novel; the keyword in that genre is fiction. Read it for a little flavor of the experience of war-ravaged France and because it is compelling entertainment. It is sure to inspire you to explore the real women and men of the Résistance.
Vianne and Isabelle are sisters with a strained relationship due to prior family dynamics. Their broken relationship leads to some bold decision by younger sister, Isabelle. Vianne’s existence during the war is not bold, however, she is a perfect example of a wife left behind to survive the ravages and trickery of boarding Nazi soldiers. The consequences of her mistakes and the horrors of what she witnesses in her small rural town change her. Slowly, Vianne grows from a naïve, romantic girl to a strong woman who can and will do anything to protect her family.
While Isabelle’s role requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief, she is a highly likable character. She is young, impetuous, idealistic, and brave. She is a typical belligerent youth who is inspired by a WWI heroine to take action against the Nazi atrocities.
I loved the layering and slow reveal of the story. Ms. Hannah writes an emotionally gripping tale. The narrator is not identified at the start (at least not in the audiobook), but the story is told through her reminiscing. It is not until the end of the story that the narrator is identified. It could be either sister or even one of their daughters.
The Nightingale flows easily from present day (1995 Seattle, Washington) to the past (1939 France). The end of the story is moving and respectful. However, I was disappointed in the end of the sisters’ war story. Ms. Hannah relied on her signature, saccharine, heart-wrenching endings. While some might be moved to tears, I found it to be too melodramatic and predictable.
Overall, The Nightingale is an inspiring, compelling historic fiction. The snippets of history, the strong female characters, and the rich, layered story telling make it an enthralling read.