The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah
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.
This book was a confusing 4-stars for me. I read this for bookclub so I knew I was going to have to finish it one way or another.
I didn’t actually like this book until halfway through, which is 200 pages in. If I hadn’t been reading this for book club, it definitely would have been a DNF.
I found both Vianne and Isabelle so irritating for the first half of the book. Vianne because she had no spine whatsoever and Isabelle because she was reckless to the point of stupidity. Which is I suppose is the point that was being made about both their characters. But this issue with their characterization is an issue that extends to other areas of the novel. It felt too forced at times, entirely lacking the grace of All the Light We Cannot See. The author condensed 4+ years of war and a dual timeline into a little over 400 pages. And it was the reader who suffers because we have whiplash from the shifting back and forth between the girls and from place to place. I felt a distinct lack of artistry for much of the book. There are spots where the writing shines, but also spots where it was duller than a corroded penny.
But like I said, I got interested about half way through. That’s when the book started to shift from very light historical fiction to serious historical fiction as it got into the way both girls were changing, growing up, and fighting the Nazis in their own way.
And then the ending made me cry multiple times, not just tearing up, but actual tears slipping down my cheeks. So I have to give some stars for that. You can’t make a person cry if they’re not emotionally invested.
A confusing 4 stars to The Nightingale. Definitely not the best novel I’ve read about World War II. For better reads in fiction, pick All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief. For better reads in non-fiction, pick Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Schindler’s List. But if you’re really into this period, The Nightingale isn’t a bad read.
Click here to buy: The Nightingale: A Novel