Around Thanksgiving, I first saw The Nightingale by Krisin Hannah in bookstores. John’s mom purchased it and told me how much she enjoyed it. It had been on my list for a while, so when I got it for Christmas, I was so excited to finally read it! I’ve been working on this book since December, and I finally finished it last week. While it was enjoyable, it wasn’t all that I hoped it would be.
The Nightingale takes place in France during World War II. France becomes increasingly occupied by Nazi Germany as the story unfolds. Throughout the novel, the plot focuses on two seemingly opposite sisters. After facing impossible war-time decisions, they find that they have much more in common than they could have imagined.
Vianne Mauriac lives in the village of Carriveau with her husband and young daughter. One peaceful morning, her family’s world is turned upside down when her husband is given orders that he must move to the Front. During his seemingly endless absence, food becomes sparse, warmth is rare, and tyrannical Nazi soldiers begin to control the country. When reserved Vianne gets notice that an enemy will be billetting in her home with her and her daughter, she is forced to face the war head on by making dangerous decisions to keep her loved ones safe.
Isabelle Rossignol is Vianne’s rambunctious younger sister. After begin removed from every school she’s attended and feeling abandoned by those who should love her most, she is determined to take an active role in the war against the Nazis. She is suddenly thrown into the Resistance; if she is found, she will be brutally killed. She starts by delivering false papers to those in need. But her involvement in the war quickly intensifies as she begins to help fallen pilots of the Allies escape from France. Isabelle continually puts her life, and the lives of those closest to her, in extraordinary danger while fighting for what she believes is right.
What would you be willing to do in a time of war?
I am lucky enough to have never experienced war in my homeland. However, some in the present and throughout history have not been so fortunate. When you are surrounded by war, I imagine you must make unimaginable sacrifices. But, would you have the courage to stand up for your country, even if it meant death?
This story did a wonderful job of juxtaposing two personalities: those who would live unnoticed in order to stay alive, and those who would risk their lives to do what is right. It made me consider who I might align with during wartime: Vianne or Isabelle. Would I be on my best behavior in order to keep my family safe or would I hide fallen pilots in my bedroom closet? Would I live under a false identity? Would I sacrifice my body and soul? I hope I would be half as courageous as the inspiring women in this story.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or a story with a thick plot and lots of suspense. I really enjoyed reading about both sisters in this story– it was like reading two novels in one.
My only complaint about this novel is that it took a very long time to become interesting. There was a lot of exposition that was, in my opinion, unnecessary. It took me until chapter 22 (out of 39) to become invested in the plot. Though, after I reached that point, I couldn’t put the book down.
In the end, I found this novel inspiring and intriguing. It shared the often untold war story: the women’s side. It highlighted the sacrifices women had to make at home. While men went to fight on the outside, women held their country together on the inside.
Have you read The Nightingale? I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well as any other book recommendations, in the comments!