“Isabelle reached out for the old woman’s hands. There were so many terrible aspects to what their lives now were, but there was this, too: friendships forged in fire that had proven to be as strong as iron.” Kristin Hannah, THE NIGHTINGALE
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.
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 a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
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 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. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures 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.
Since its release in February, I have never had a book recommended to me as many times as THE NIGHTINGALE. Blurb requests and my own writing deadlines kept me from reading it. Then I read ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, and felt that it was such a perfect and heartrending book I needed a break from novels about WWII. When I read that THE NIGHTINGALE had sold over one million copies, I knew I had to get started. I’m so glad I did.
This is less a novel about romantic love and more a tale of familial love–sisters, fathers and daughters, mothers and children–and the sacrifices family members are willing to make and endure for their flesh and blood. It is the story of how two women are held to the fire–how their courage brings about great change in each of them. The reader will wonder over and over, “What would I do in this situation?” “Would I have the courage, the gall, the audacity, the love to do this?” The answers are not always clear or easy, but that’s what makes THE NIGHTINGALE so compelling.
There are many surprises along the way, and the book is heartbreaking, but it is worth it. THE NIGHTINGALE lived up to and surpassed every recommendation I received, and I pass along that recommendation to you.
Have you read the book? Have you read any others by Kristin Hannah? What would you recommend as a follow up?