Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

In love, we find out who we want to be. In war, we find out who we are. Two sisters. One must be brave. The other should be afraid. | Photo by Words N' Quotes.
In love, we find out who we want to be. In war, we find out who we are. | Photo by Words N’ Quotes.

Two sisters. One must be brave. The other should be afraid. Be very, very afraid. After all, it is World War II and in wars, nothing good ever comes out of it. Unless we’re talking about the benefits that the enemies are getting at the expense of the victims.


“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.”

Kristin Hannah puts together a novel about two sisters in France who have very different personalities. Vianne and Isabelle Rossignol went through hell and the pain of losing their father to the Great War (he was fine before he was drafted, but he changed completely upon his return) and their mother to an illness, neither sister could accept the fact that their lives have changed. Isabelle became rebellious. No school could discipline her and turn her into a law-abiding citizen. Vianne sought love and affection in Antoine Mauriac at a tender age of fourteen and was pregnant by sixteen. They got married and moved in together, in the hopes that she would forget the pain she endured, and became Vianne Mauriac.

The moment Adolf Hitler announced his arrival and presence in the Second World War, things started to get shaken and stirred. Isabelle Rossignol was determined to find her place in assisting in the war. Vianne Mauriac was hoping she could hide away from the spotlight with her family, only to learn that Antoine had been drafted for the war and she was left to face life and fend for her daughter on her own, without her pillar of strength and support. Vianne and Isabelle must brave the war together but the odds of it ever taking place was a 100 to 1 after Vianne had abandoned Isabelle when their father left them in the care of a stranger. Will the sisters be able to put aside their differences and stand as one?

It is another book on World War II and the horrors of the Nazi against the Jews and the prisoners-of-war (POWs) that I’m reading, and people would think that I’d finally be immuned to the gruesome nightmares. Seems that I’m not, and again, after reading at least half the book, I’m back to taking a break again to rest my weary mind. The plot is great, starting out pretty well and at a decent pace. There is an adequate amount of space for each character to grow into their shoes, and the occasional flashback that shows readers what happened in the past that affected the present so badly. The author, Kristin Hannah, successfully turns each word into a needlepoint, whereupon each touch of the word as you read touches your heart as well. Making you bleed for the characters’ torture and suffering. You get emotional when something bad happens, or annoyed when the sisters are too stubborn to accept the fact that things have changed since the war began.

I’m not done with the book yet, having taken a short break from reading grisly World War II nightmares. But this is as much as I can retrieve from having read a little more than half of the book. For those who are war or history buffs, this would be a good book for you. But if you’re a history buff with a faint heart, I’d recommend you take breaks in between reading, or risk having troubled sleep at nights.

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