Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My Thoughts

Epic. Beautiful. Inspiring. Unforgettable.
The Nightingale is a breathtaking story of courage and love
and one of my new all-time most treasured stories.



The Nightingale coverIn 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.

My Review

Seldomnly do I find a book with the power to burrow itself into my heart in a way that doesn’t want to let go. The kind of book that pervades my thoughts without relent. The kind of book in which I get lost… that makes me think of what others go through in a way that feels almost too much to bear, too much to experience, too much to feel. But also the kind that demands attention. The Bronze Horseman trilogy is that story for me, and now, The Nightingale is that story too.

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

Kristin Hannah weaves a beautifully gut-wrenching tale steeped in the most horrible of truths. The story is equal parts brutal, tragic and inspiring. It speaks to atrocities that should have never been experienced, but also to the resilience of the human spirit and the unending capacity to love and be brave in the face of the unfathomable. The Nightingale illuminates the story of two sisters—Vianne and Isabelle. How they relate to each other. How they differ from each other. How they each experience World War II in France, hanging on to hope and each other despite their frightening circumstances. This is a story about the war told through the eyes of Vianne and Isabelle, but also through the perspective of the women that stayed behind to face their own kind of nightmares, to keep children safe, families intact. They fought hunger and violence and poverty and many things too hard to be shared… even when the war would end.

“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.”

When Vianne Mauriac’s husband Antoine is shipped off to war, she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him. She doesn’t really believe the war will escalate and reach her front door, so she’s mainly concerned with being without the man that’s been at her side for so long. But when the Nazi’s do arrive, seizing every liberty, privilege and eventually, necessity, Vianne is forced to confront unimaginable fears to keep her and her daughter safe. That becomes especially true when she’s forced to accept a Nazi to billet in her home.

Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle, has always felt like an outsider, and when the war threatens, she sees it coming and prepares for the worst. Some say she is tempestuous, rebellious, reckless, but she’s an eighteen year old who has been a bit of a lost spirit, searching for love and acceptance. But despite her internal sensitivities, Isabelle appears tough as nails, braving everything that comes with passion and determination. In the war, she found purpose and perhaps she found herself. She threw herself into danger, embracing the deadliest of consequences in the name of justice and patriotic duty, helping others find freedom. It’s during this time where she meets Gäetan, a man with whom she falls in love… a man who leaves her astray as others have before. But despite her heroism and success, the war consumes her too before too long and Isabelle faces the true cruelty of the Nazis.

Vianne and Isabelle differ on so many levels, each approaching their life with a different set of ideals and proclivities. We seem them battle their emotions, their fears. We see them search for love in those that leave and betray and those they shouldn’t care for. We see them fight the consumption of their spirit when their bodies fail… when the pang of hunger hits… when blood is all around them.

“… love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”

I have a personal soft spot for stories from World War II. I’m fascinated and amazed by the courage that so many demonstrated in situations meant to break the body, the mind and the soul. What I loved about this particular story, however, was that it came from the perspective of these all-too-real women with whom I could relate to (initially). Their experiences were staggering. I cried and cried at the end, as the story both unraveled and came together. Redacted in dual POV, we experience both Vianne and Isabelle’s journey in the 1940s, but we also experience a single voice in the present tense… and we don’t know who our storyteller is until the climactic end.

I applaud Kristin Hannah for penning such a beautiful, emotional, gripping story. I loved it for the relationship of the two sisters. For the historical knowledge it imparted. For the message of resilience it delivered. For so many other things. I hope that everyone picks up this book and realizes everything the human spirit can withstand without being broken. Absolutely amazing 6-star must read.

“Love. It was the beginning and end of everything, the foundation and the ceiling and the air in between.”

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One Comment:

  1. Tami West said:

    I’m a little behind the times reading this book, but OMG!!! One of my all-time favorites as well. My only complaint is that I had no one to share it with, and because of that I’m starting a women’s book club in my area. Because we won’t read anything a member has already read, I’m referring them to your review and encouraging them to read this on their own. AND we’ll use your blog as a source of new books. Thank you!


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