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“The Nightingale” may be Kristin Hannah’s best book yet! Combining history, family and dynamic relationships, as well as focusing on people doing what it takes to survive the horrors of war, this novel draws readers to the story and keeps them firmly gripped from front page to last page. It is a novel of finding the courage to do the right thing and then doing the necessary thing to do the right thing.
When an old woman prepares to leave her home for fifty years, she opens an old trunk and retrieves an identification card: “Juliette Gervais”. By insisting that her son allow her to take an old trunk stored in the attic, the woman allows herself to remember her past life and that of her immediate family and during the years of the Nazi occupation of France. “… For years I kept the memories at bay. I hid them in a dusty attic, away from prying eyes …” She, however, could not forget.
The Rosingal sisters, Viann and Isabelle, are as different as two sisters can be. “… Viann the rule-follower and Isabelle the rebel …” Her widowed father, emotionally damaged by his service in World War I, is unable to care for the two after his wife’s death. He expels Viann from her home when she becomes pregnant and marries the young man with whom she is in love. He cannot deal with Isabelle’s rebellion and sends her to boarding school.
When the Vichy government accepts the Nazi regime’s occupation of part of France, a kind-hearted Nazi officer housed at Viann’s country house allows him to overlook some of the atrocities taking place in Europe. Reality breaks her complacency when her best friend, a Jewess, is captured. The Nazi officer’s comment “… I was following orders …” is the impetus that prompts Viann to take further action. The brash Isabelle – “… Isabelle had always reacted simply in her life …” – is deeply involved in hiding and helps blow up allies while evading the Nazis. Known as “The Mockingbird”, the Nazis love her and she faces death if captured. As the years go by, Viann and Isabelle’s attitudes change: Viann becomes bolder and Isabelle more thoughtful.
The emotional impact of “The Nightingale” is significant, particularly in the last third of the book. The difficulties faced with such courage by the characters of the French Resistance and by those characters who risked everything to help others attacked by the Nazi occupiers pale in comparison to the courage of the people who actually endured the Nazi regime. One cannot help but be moved by Kristin Hannah’s portrayals of these events and people.
Readers who think of Kristin Hannah as the author of romance novels will discover that she has written an extraordinary historical novel. While there are elements of romance scattered throughout “The Nightingale,” these short passages only serve as reminders that even in war love can survive. Most of the novel focuses on the strength of love for the family, the sacrifices people make for their love of humanity, and the courage of those who resist tyranny and brutality from madmen. I will recommend “The Nightingale” to my book club and to others who value good writing and an engaging story.
- Name: Nightingale
- Writer: KRISTIN HANNAH
- Categories: English Literature, On Sell
- Paperback: 592 pages
- Publisher: Griffin; Reprint edition (April 25, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250080401
- ISBN-13: 978-1250080400
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.3 inches
- Customer Reviews: – 42,964 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129