“The Nightingale” was a magnificent but a very difficult emotionally book. It is a book about the Second World War. It is a book about the women’s war as fought by the wives, mothers and women left behind when their men left. But it is mostly a book about the choices that we make when we have to face extraordinary circumstances.
What is the story?
So, let’s start from the beginning.
The Nightingale starts in 1995 where we are introduced to an old woman who, because of a fatal illness, has to move out of her house and go to a retirement home. We know that she has a son with whom she’s going to travel to Paris to attend a reunion for the survivors of the war.
Then we go back to 1939 at the french village of Carriveau. It’s the beginning of the WWII. We are introduced to two sisters. Vianne, wife of Antoine and mother to Sophie and Isabelle, the younger and more rebellious sister. The war starts amd the two women have to face their own challenges. Vianne’s husband leaves for the front and she has to stay behind and live through two German officers living in her house, starvation, seeing her Jewish friends being taken away and risking her life for others. Isabelle takes a different road. She joins the French Resistance and helps American soldiers escape France through the mountains. I absolutely loved Isabelle. I found her so rebellious, tough, clever, fearless and strong that I could not but just admire her. We literally owe to women like her everything that we take now for granted like our freedom. It would be my honor to have known a woman like her.
Is it based on true events?
Of course and the author writes at her website that she was inspired by the story of a young Belgian woman who had created an escape route out of France.
What are your thoughts?
It is really one of those rare books that suck you in and don’t let go. I started this book and couldn’t stop reading it till the end. There were a lot of times that I had to stop reading because I wanted to think what I would have done in the same situation. What grips your heart is that the decisions that Vianne had to make are decisions that almost all French women in the WWII had to face. They are decisions that I would have to face if I lived in the same unfortunate time and place. It really makes you face your own ethical dilemmas. In times of war, what would you do? Would you let your child starve or be loyal to your country? Would you ever be friends with the enemy? Would you put your own life and the life of your child first or the lives of many children? Would you be loyal to your sister or keep your head down to avoid any attention? And last, what do you think about secrets? Are they justified or the truth is always better?
What did you think about the ending?
The ending was very emotional. As a book lover, there are very few books that can make me cry but the Nightingale is one of them. There were literally tears pouring down my face as I read the last pages.They weren’t sad tears but there were just the release of the powerful emotions that this book evokes.
Is there something I should know before I start “The Nightingale”?
Yes, there are some trigger scenes that may disturb some women but they are written with the utmost respect to the reader, they are not graphic at all and, honestly, you have to remember that the events take place in wartime.
Last but not least…
One of the main themes in The Nightingale is how love shapes us and affects the choices that we make. In Kristin Hannah’s beautiful words:
“In love we find out who we want to be;
in war we find out who we are”.
“The Nightingale” was #1 New York Times Bestseller, it was named a top 5 book of the year by Amazon and it was named a best book of the year by The Wall Street Journal and in itunes. If you are interested in learning more about the women in France during the WWII, you can purchase a copy of “The Nightingale” in paperback or a hardcover. You can also download it either in your tablet or in Audible if you want to start right now!