Two sisters, as different as they can be, are sent away by their father whose WWI experience changed him so much that when his beloved wife dies, he can no longer be father to them. As WWII rushes into their lives all three confront it differently. The younger sister rushes headlong into resistance groups doing whatever she can. The older sister sees the love of her life march away leaving her with her young daughter to survive as best she can. Each plays a specific part in resisting German occupation until at long last France can be liberated. The book details the lives of the sisters involving the father only when their lives somehow intersect. It's a sad story that can bring tears to the eyes of the reader. Like many historical novels of this period, it tells a story of how horrific it was to live under the cruel Nazis.
Kristin Hannah has written a really excellent fictional account of the cruelty and horrors eagerly committed by the Nazis in German-occupied France during WWII. The incredible courage and sacrifice of two estranged sisters are at the heart of a novel that begins when an elderly woman opens a trunk filled with memories. The characters are as well developed as the plot. I found this book to be absolutely riveting with a perfect, poignant ending. The inevitable comparison for me was to the equally compelling Suite Francaise by Nemirovsky.
Firstly, I must say this: I really wanted to love this book. As someone who's enjoyed Kristin Hannah in the past (ON MYSTIC LAKE, BETWEEN SISTERS), I was excited to get to THE NIGHTINGALE...only to discover that it's actually one of the most overrated books in history!
After reading several far more authentic WW2 stories in recent months (THE BRONZE HORSEMAN by Paullina Simons, THE LAVENDER GARDEN by Lucinda Riley, and even THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE by Julie Orringer) The Nightingale went down more like a Super Harlequin WW2 narrative--which explains the commercial fanfare as well. (It seems the average commercial U.S. reader loves to see themselves and overtones of the familiar rather generically reflected in what they read--they gobble it right up.)
In this story, France during WW2 bristles with far too much United States 2015. The prose and dialogue are far too modernized and fail at delivering true authenticity for the time and place. Never once did I feel I was actually in 1940s France. Not once did the sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, feel like actual French-born women. Usage of the French words for 'yes' and 'no' and 'mom' does not an authentic French characterization make!
Also, it was a pretty slow build for the first 300 pages, the war details felt too Wikipedia at times, and it was way too high on melodramatic, contrived coincidences for manufacturing the tension and plot twists. I found my eyes rolling whenever it happened--you could just see the author's hand forcing the conflict onto the page with convenient timings.
For the things I did appreciate: there were touching relationship arcs in the end and a couple of surprises I didn't expect, which kept it from feeling too predictable overall. But nevertheless, the problem was that the story never hooked me and I was never fully sold on Hannah's imaginary WW2 'Nightingale,' who we're supposed to believe was being hunted by the Nazis, but was never once referred to in French, which would've been Isabelle and Vianne's family surname!! Were the Nazis that dumb??
Further, I never really connected with Isabelle and really only felt for her through the pain of those who loved her, like her sister Vianne, whose character felt more authentic to me.
So all in all, do I think it's a bad book? No, I would recommend it to people on a steady YA diet, or readers who like romanticized, Americanized and modernized "let's play house" with war stories--and there clearly are plenty of them out there! But moi? J'ai besoin de ma fiction pour etre plus authentique que ca. ;)
I'd give it 3.25 stars.
Honestly? I could've spent the time re-reading a genuine masterpiece like THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, which, despite its length (and having a romance at the very heart of the story), never once felt like romanticized, Harlequin-esque, wartime commercial fiction. I'm just saying there's a difference, people. :-)
Sometimes you read a book and it's pretty much forgotten within a month or two. Sometimes you read a book and you know that its characters will stay with you forever, as if you knew them personally and cared about what happened to them. This is how I feel about Isabelle and Vianne, two sisters facing the cruelties and challenges of living in WWII Occupied France. One is highly motivated to work with the French Resistance and bravely helps downed British and American airmen. The other must share her home with two different Nazi officers, one somewhat kind and the other cruelly sadistic. The sisters each assist the Allies and Jewish families in their own courageous ways. Highly recommended reading!
This was definitely a good read. It was written with such great description you could actually picture exactly what was going on and relate to the characters feelings.
This was the best book I have read in years. I cried and found myself so saddened by the events going on. Such strong people to survive the ugliness of war. I dreamt about this story many nights because when reading it, it was so true to life and what so many people suffered during World War Two. I just can't imagine it all. We are so lucky to live in a country where war has not overtaken our lives. God bless all those unfortunate people who died or had to endure the tortures of war. This book was well written and just a great read. Everybody should read it...
When I first began reading The Nightingale, I almost gave up. The headstrong Isabelle is just the sort of character that makes my blood boil. Poor little Isabelle! Your daddy doesn't love you the way you want him to. Your sister's a stick in the mud who doesn't pay enough attention to you. It's all about you, you, you, and you should be able to say and do anything you like regardless of the danger you put everyone else in. Boo hoo hoo. But... something told me that this irritating young girl would undergo a sea change, and she certainly does.
Hannah plays one sister off the other beautifully in this pitch-perfect setting. Compared to the beautiful, willful Isabelle, Vianne does seem dowdy and quiet, a scared little mouse. But it's easy to flip your hair, pout, and go out to do something stupid when you don't have to worry about the well-being of your child and your husband. When you are forced to live with a Nazi officer under your roof.
There is a mystery in the pages of The Nightingale. Almost all the action occurs in France during the years 1939 to 1946, but there is an occasional chapter from 1995. One of the sisters is going to an important gathering-- but which sister? When the sister's identity is finally revealed, I was not surprised, but I was gratified. However, this identity puzzle is nowhere close to being the heart of this powerful novel.
Through the trials of these two sisters, the author shows us the true meaning of love, of survival, and of courage. This is a powerful, visceral story that can leave you feeling emotionally drained, and although I had a bit of a contretemps with Isabelle at the very beginning, I loved it.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah captures a story of World War II and the French resistance - the very different but equally important roles of two sisters. The book is readable as are most of Kristin Hannah's books. The characters are sympathetic as are most of her characters. The story depicts an aspect of history that should be remembered. It's just not as strong an addition to this genre as have come before.
Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2015/02/the-nightingale.html
Reviewed based on a copy received through a publishers giveaway
Wow. What to say about this book? It is so sad. Every time you think it can't get any worse, these people can't get any more dumped on them, they do. The last 60 pages tore me up. I had to take breaks and go back and read more.
I've read a bit about the Gulags and things that happened in Russia during WWII, but never had I read about what happened in France. Such a moving story and told in a way that you feel like you are there. That you can picture it all. I was glad to have finished it during the day and not right before I went to bed though. To heavy for just before bed. Can't recommend it enough though!
Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors with past books which. I thoroughly enjoyed. The Nightingale is a historical novel, which is not my preference when reading a summary of the storyline, but I started this novel and was engrossed in the book for 5 hours straight. Kristin Hannah knows how to write an engaging novel, weaving in family dynamics, and developing the characters. I liked that she didn't bore me with details of location or give me historical information 100 ages in who h would have put me to sleep and not ever pick up the book again. This book is an emotional feeler and makes you feel as if you are living back in World War II. I was so intrigued by all that was happening and kept pushing to read more. I also liked that she did not provide details of grotesque scenes. The images would have made the story unbearable. She writes a well in depth story about family, love and forgiveness. I really enjoyed this story.
This book is absolutely heartbreakingly amazing! I loved this so so so much!!!
Wow, just wow. It is so nice to have a women's fiction book at isn't your typical scenario... young, cute, falls in love, lives happily ever after, etc... Wonderful story and great characters!
This book took me a little while to really get into -- maybe 50-60 pages but once you get into you, you are instantly consumed! It paints such a vivid portrait of the way life was then & sacrifices people made for others. Absolutely loved the book and was sad for it to be over.
This is a beautiful but heartbreaking novel written about German-occupied war-torn France during WWII. It takes place in Carriveau and is mainly about two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac. Isabelle is rebellious and 18 years old when she falls in love with Gaetan. When he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and becomes known as The Nightingale while risking her life to safe others. It is a story of survival, love and freedom and shows Isabelle's courage during this epic period of war. Kristin Hannah has done an excellent job of portraying the durability of the women who were left behind to take care of the family and were often raped by the German soldiers who took over some of their homes. I found parts of this story to be highly emotional and hard to read but I do look forward to reading more books by Hannah.I highly recommend this novel to those who like books that show the resilience of the human spirit.
When I first began this book it started slow for me. I love Kristin Hannah's book so I was a little unsettled. As I read on and the story and characters grew for me I had to put the story down and step away. Once again the horror of that terrible war and what happened to people was a reminder of how ugly people can be. I am glad that I read the book. The story, as you can imagine, will stay with me for awhile. Bad things always do. I am glad I read this book......without a doubt.
A wonderful and tragic story. Historical fiction about two sisters during the occupation of France by the Nazi's. Very heartbreaking.
This is a tale of 2 sisters, who are very different. Cast out by a father who was damaged by the horrors WWI, to live with a stranger when their mother dies, it tells the story of how Vianne and her younger sister Isabelle deal with life as the germans occupy France and their resilience in surviving the horrors of the halocaust.
I have yet to read a book by Kristin Hannah that I haven't loved.
A beautifully written story.
This is book is about the Nazi occupation of France and two sisters, different as night and day. The older Vianne was afraid and weak and younger Isabella, rebellious, strong and defiant.
They fight the Nazis in their own way, Vianne saving Jewish children in a convent, while Isabella joins the French Resistance and leads downed British and American airman over mountains to safety.
I'm sure this has been done before in different ways, but these sisters were riveting, their story captivating as they endured torture, fear, starvation and freezing temperatures. Survival was the only thing they wanted. I felt their pain and suffering like my own and the touching ending was sad and poignant.
I haven't stopped thinking about this book, therefore 5 stars! Be sure to keep tissues nearby.