Book Review – The Nightingale

You guys. I just finished reading Kristin Hannah’s latest novel, The Nightingale, and I cannot stop talking about it. I have read many of Hannah’s books, some have been really good and others have been just so-so, but this one – THIS ONE – is superb.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

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.

This isn’t just another book about World War Two. There are many other elements that make this novel so much more than a great read for historical fiction fans. The dynamic between Vianne and Isablle, the two girls and their father, and the impossible challenges and choices parents have to make for their children all make this story relatable and timeless. It also provokes the question about what you would do if you lived during these times. How would you respond to an enemy soldier in your home? What risks would you be willing to take?

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, but also anyone looking for a great read that will force you to look at some hard issues. The entire book has a feeling of tension – not an edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger tension – but just a feeling of impending doom. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight, we know how World War Two ends, so you know sort of what’s coming. But the individuals within the war are what makes the World War Two genre so fascinating for me.

Your Turn: What are you reading? What’s your favorite historical fiction book?

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