TL;DR – The Nightingale is a story of two sisters who find their circumstances completely changed due to the war and their struggle to keep moving forward. The book is absolutely worth all the hype. If you must pick up one book to read, make it this one.
“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.” – Line 1, Page 1.
France in 1939 was at the brink of war and subsequent invasion by the German forces. The French men were called to serve and defend the country, the women were left behind to wait and hope for the return of the men.
This has to be the best book I have read in 2017. Unfortunately, it lay idle on my Kindle for far too long than I would like to admit. But once I picked it up, I was hooked.
The Plot: With Hitler lead Germany at the doorsteps of France, the French men are called to serve the nation as soldiers. The women, as in any war, are left behind to fend for themselves and their children. Two sisters – Isabelle and Vianne, respond to the war in very different ways. Isabelle, the younger of the two, reacts with anger and insubordination, risking her life to join the resistance against Nazi occupation of France.
Vianne, on the other hand, proceeds with wariness and fear, trying to avoid all conflicts with the authority for the sake of safety of her children. The story is packed full of bombings, acts of defiance and resistance, cross-border hikes of nighttime, acts of bravery and scenes of everyday life in a war-zone where the definition of luxury changes basis changing circumstances.
What I liked: I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the fast pace of the book does not take away from the character build-up. The relationship of Isabel and Vianne and of the sisters to their father, although captured in only initial few chapters, has been beautifully built up. Once the war scenes begin, the book picks up a faster pace and takes the reader through the challenges and turmoils faced by the sisters and the decisions that they have to make. It is hard to miss that the author, Kristin Hannah, has done a beautiful job of detailing and effortlessly portraying the everyday life in a war-torn country bringing the women of the war – the unsung heroes of the resistance movement to the forefront.
While this book is a historical fiction, I would like to remind you that it is based on an actual heroic Belgian woman called Andrée de Jongh and draws many parallels. I will not spoil the story for you with more details but I must warn you to not look up De Jongh till you have finished the book. But it will be an absolute shame if you don’t read about her afterwards.
The Verdict: An absolute must-read!