Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Polly Stone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 17 hours and 26 min, 440 pages
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
Story: 5+++ stars
I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book, but due to the genre, historical fiction, I wasn’t sure if it would be for me. One day I saw a signed copy at Target and bought it. And then it sat on my shelf. I’m not sure what led me to consider this on audio, but knowing I may never get time to read my signed copy (I do treat signed copies like they are historical documents which always makes it that much harder to read), I decided to check out the audio. BEST DECISION EVER!!!
This story starts out a bit slow and I thought maybe I’d made a mistake buying it. We first meet the sisters Vianne and Isabelle, as they navigate everyday life in France. Vianne is a dotting wife, mother, and teacher. She seems to have an idyllic life with the man and daughter she loves. But that world gets rocked when the war is announced and her husband is called to duty. She is now fearful for her husband, and a bit lost on how handle everything on her own. Yet she finds a way.
Isabelle is very different from her sister. We meet her as she is being kicked out of another school, due to her behavior. She is stubborn and strong willed down to the core, and it costs her. When her father refuses to care for her and sends her off to be with her sister, which is when this book really picks up. Her journey, on foot, to Vianne is anything but comfortable.
As someone who has watched a number of war movies, I’ve seen the deaths and heroics of many. But I haven’t seen the war from the perspective of someone not fighting, or if I did, it didn’t stick with me like this book. This story exposed all of the hardships that befell the people of France as the German soldiers take over their lives, in every regard. Prized possessions are taken. The best food is given to the Germans while the French get the scraps, if they are lucky. And then there is the person invasion of space. In this book, Vianne and Isabelle’s lives take completely different directions when a German solider, Beck, billets at their house. Vianne accommodates out of fear, Isabelle fumes with anger. It’s at this point in the story where I favored one sister, Isabelle, over the other. Maybe it was that I knew what they didn’t know. The Germans were not direct in their attack of the Jews. It was a lot more secretive, spewing lies to cover up future actions. So I loved that Isabelle didn’t seem to roll over, like Vianne did. Yes, I’m fully aware that Vianne had a daughter to protect, but she bought in so easily to the German lies.
While I have always hated the Nazis and SS, for obvious reasons, I was mortified by their every action in this book. They literally become power obsessed and essentially have their mindset so skewed, that they become mass murders with no remorse. Except for one man. Although I didn’t like him, per se, I didn’t hate Beck. There are moments in which he interacts with Vianne and Sophie, that you can see his human side. I wanted him to do bigger things, and you can see how the war takes a toll on his spirit. Without going into detail, you can see how “easy” Vianne had it, when another German comes to take Beck’s place.
I don’t want to give away the heart of this story, but there are many heroes, people who tried make a difference in the war, away from the battlefield. Both sisters show immeasurable courage and dig deep when they have barely anything left. Although I initially favored Isabelle, Vianne shows her strength in a different way, but no less important. The sisters’ fight for justice is so heartbreaking, I’m literally crying while typing this review. I was in awe of their actions. Although this book is fiction, we know that there were many people like Isabelle and Vianne, who stood up and tried to protect others, risking their own lives.
This story is remarkable and unforgetable. The perfect combination of history with a compelling storyline that will hook you in and feel everything.
Performance: 5 stars
I listen to a ton of romance books on audio, but every once and awhile I set out and listen to a non-romance audio book. I can safely say that I am in awe of some of these non-romance narrators. I’ve only listened to four non-romance audios, but each narrator has floored me with their talent. They truly make the audio an experience. This book was no exception. This narrator capture a multitude of characters voices and dialects, while conveying the heavy emotional weight of the story-line. Not many narrators are good enough to make you want to pull over your car and have a good sob.
This narrator doesn’t read the story, she performs it. As it should be.
Overall: 5+++ stars
Can you tell how much I loved this story? If not, reread my review.
Whether this is your type of genre, or not, I encourage everyone to read this. Especially women. It is emotional and heartbreaking, yet empowering. Read it, listen to it, either way, I’m certain you will never forget this story, just like I won’t.