When I finished reading The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, I needed to talk about it as soon as possible. What a beautiful book. I have been reading a lot of World War II fiction lately because of something I’m working on, so I was interested to read this book on the back of some great reviews.
The Nightingale follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during the Nazi occupation in France. Vianne’s husband goes to the Front at the beginning of the war. She must do everything she can to keep herself and her daughter alive. Isabelle is a young and rebellious woman desperate to feel loved and valid. She is determined to be of use and joins the Resistance, risking everything while facing unbelievable danger. The two women, no matter their different lives, share stunning strength, determination and connection as they try to survive and keep all those around them safe during the horrors of war.
This is the type of book that made me stop and sit in deep thought when I came to the end, feeling emotional and awe-struck. I think that’s a real sign of a book’s power. Of course, a lot of that comes from the terrifying reality that this story is based on truth, that real people lived through similar situations to that in the book. But the writing is beautiful and atmospheric, and I could imagine being there with these two amazing women.
I think it is so important that we read these types of books. Not only do they keep those brave people who suffered and fought in various ways in our memory, and teach us about past mistakes and achievements, but they make us aware of what we have and what is important. Suddenly, the worries about how you look in an outfit or the stress about what people might think of you if you voice your opinion seem ridiculous. They make you aware of how much we have and how much we should value, and how hard we should try to do everything we can to have as good a life as possible because, horribly, so many people did not get that chance. Don’t waste yours.
This book is also important because it shows a different angle to that which is often portrayed in the war. It shows the women’s side – what they went through during the war, and amazing feats of courage and love that are often overlooked. Being ‘at home’ rather than at the Front didn’t mean they weren’t part of the war. It also looks into the German occupation in France, which is something that I found I did not know a whole lot about.
I listened to this book via Audible, and it was narrated extremely well. I think I’d like to read it again in book form as well so that I can make notes and appreciate it further. I tossed up between giving this 4 or 5 stars out of 5 because some parts didn’t grab my attention as much as others (though it really picks up the further in you go), but ultimately, the writing, character development, plot and message within it are amazing.
I gave The Nightingale 5 out 5 stars