Despite their differences, Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris, while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their child. But when the Second World War breaks out and Antoine is conscripted to fight, Isabelle is sent to the country by her father to help Vianne.
As war develops, the strength of the sisters’ relationship is put to the test. Confronted by unbelievable horrors, Vianne and Isabelle find themselves responding in ways they never thought possible, as bravery and resistance take differing forms for each of the two sisters.
My top three books have been set in stone for a very long time: The Kite Runner, The Book Thief and A Thousand Splendid Suns, however the time has finally come for one of those to be knocked off the podium to make way for my new number one – The Nightingale. Although I loathe Facebook, I cannot deny that joining a couple of its book club groups has been extremely beneficial in directing me towards books I would never have freely chosen. The Nightingale is one of these books!
The Nightingale is the story of two sisters during the rise of the Second World War. Vianne, the oldest sister, lives in rural France with her husband and daughter, Sophie. When her husband, Antoine, is sent to fight the Germans, Vianne resolves to keep her head down and follow the rules, especially with a Nazi general billeting in her home. Isabelle, the younger sister, lives a very different life. Rejected by her father and excluded from multiple boarding schools, Isabelle has never really had a place to call home. So when the Nazis take over France, Isabelle is driven to join a French Resistance Group. For Isabelle, sitting back and doing nothing just isn’t an option. The two sisters, although seemingly very different, will turn out to be more similar than they know.
The character development in this novel is second to none! As the war progresses, Vianne becomes tougher, stronger and more assertive – more like Isabelle. Both sisters are incredibly strong and deal with the horrors of war with utter dignity. In writing The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah highlights the bravery and resilience of women who risked their lives during the Second World War. For many women and children living through the Nazi regime, rape, torture, hunger and death became a part of everyday life.
Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books.
Kirstin Hannah makes very skilled connections between other characters in the book,of whom there are many. Ultimately a tale of love and loss, Hannah reminds the reader that it is our relationships and the love we have for one another that keeps us going.
Love. It was the beginning and end of everything, the foundation and the ceiling and the air in between.
The Nightingale is all about having the courage to make a stand. Heartbreaking yet empowering, this is hands-down the best book I have ever read. The ending is absolute perfection, even when read through tear-stained eyes. A beautifully written story that will stay with me forever.