Tuesday, February 3, 2015
In war we find out who we are.
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 a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
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 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. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures 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. -- St. Martin's Press
When I first read the description for THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah, I knew I had to read it! I haven't been reading much historical fiction of late; however, this novel definitely appealed to me. I love World War II novels, especially those about heroic events during the holocaust; and THE NIGHTINGALE certainly fit the bill. In addition, I'm a fan of Ms. Hannah's novels and I've always appreciated how she manages to incorporate so much about relationships into her stories.
THE NIGHTINGALE tells the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who both played very different, but very important roles during World War II. The novels weaves back and forth between the present and the past but mainly the past -- specifically the 1940s in occupied France. The book begins in the present day when an elderly woman is being "forced" by her son to enter a nursing home because of her illness. In the meantime, she is invited to go back to France to attend a ceremony recognizing individuals who helped people escape during World War II.
The book switches to the past when Vianne must say good bye to her husband who is leaving to fight in the war. She stays behind to take care of their house Le Jardin and young daughter while also teaching school. Many women are in a similar situation including her best friend Rachel who happens to be Jewish.
Isabelle, on the other hand, is a bit of a rebel. She has been kicked out of numerous schools and wants to be part of the war effort; however, her father makes her return to Le Jardin and stay with Vianne. When the Germans begin to take over the small village and even requisition Vianne's home, Isabelle's fiery temper gets her into trouble. Isabelle does her best to help with the war and eventually joins the Resistance -- she's known as "The Nightingale." As she shows more and more courage, she takes on an even bigger role of transporting Allied airman across the French mountains into safe territory.
Vianne begins to feel the effects of the war too when she loses her best friend, her job, her home and more. She feels as if she has little if any control over her life; however, she manages to aid the war effort in her own way by helping the children who were left behind when their parents were forced to leave. Like Isabelle, she also risks everything to help others albeit in a much less drastic way!
THE NIGHTINGALE explores the effects of the German invasion on France both in a general and more personal way by featuring Vianne and Isabelle. It is a deeply moving novel that will no doubt touch your heart, but it's also a thought-provoking and enlightening read. I enjoyed it a great deal, and even though it was well over 400 pages, I felt as if the story moved and my interest was kept for the entire novel.
I honestly don't know what I appreciated more about this novel -- the historical aspects or the way Ms. Hannah captured the relationships in Vianne and Isabelle's lives. A lot takes place in this novel and it's pretty grand in scope; however, I do think Ms. Hannah did a wonderful job with balancing the stories of the war with the stories of these two women. Because these women's stories were so touching and also so real to me, I think it made the effects of the war even more horrendous to me. And that's saying a lot because I naturally thought what happened during World War II was pretty horrific!
Ms. Hannah's descriptions of what happened to this small French village were gut wrenching and amazing at the same time. There are truly so many incredible heroes from this war, and it's unbelievable to me how anyone continued to fight for their lives nevertheless survive. THE NIGHTINGALE really made me think and appreciate all of those individuals who took risks (or take risks everyday) for our freedom.
I also really enjoyed how the author focused on Vianne and Isabelle. As far as sisters go, they seemed to be polar opposites; and in many ways, they were. They certainly had their fair share of issues as far as relationships go, especially their relationship with each other; however, they both managed to show incredible amounts of inner strength and courage. I was impressed by how well the relationships in both of their lives were portrayed -- and by that I mean their friendships and their romances, as well as their connections with their enemies.
I'm sure you already know this, but THE NIGHTINGALE would make a wonderful book club pick. The book truly covers so much so there would be plenty to discuss. I found these fourteen discussion questions on the author's site to help generate discussion. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family, loss, war, grief, sacrifice, love, resilience, courage, secrets, and parent/child relationships to name a few.
I enjoyed THE NIGHTINGALE and highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction and women's fiction!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Giveaway alert: Thanks to the wonderful folks at St. Martin's Press, I have a copy of THE NIGHTINGALE to share with one very lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before February 16th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!