The Nightingale

An invasion for no apparent reason, citizens fleeing in millions and suffering for it, children dying under machine gun fire. This all sounds horribly familiar if you’re following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and yet this is the content of The Nightingale set during the second world war.  

It was chilling reading about the desperation of people fleeing their homes due to the threat of bombs in a historic account and then seeing this happen again in Europe.

The Plot

The Nightingale is the account of the Nazi invasion and occupation of France as told through the eyes of two very different sisters. Isobelle is headstrong and does and says what she wants while Vianne is steadier and anxious.  

They both react to the war in different ways. Vianne just wants to protect her daughter, see her husband return from Germany, and survive the German officers billeted at her house. Isobelle is determined to join the French resistance and do anything she can to destroy the Nazis and save France. Both end up fighting for what they believe in while struggling to survive.  

The Review

Kristen Hannah, the author of The Nightingale, was inspired by the tales of the women in the French resistance. The stories were compelling and it shocked her how little history had remembered these women.  

It is truly a story of resistance. Resisting love, resisting familial and sisterly bonds, resisting hunger, and assistance from the enemy. Both Vianne and Isobelle end up resisting in their own unique ways and both must overcome their own weaknesses to do so.  

The novel winds through the history of the occupation of France, from Paris to the Lorre Valley, and a heroic crossing of the Pyrenes. The story is fascinating and captivating, but also heart-wrenching. Hannah uses a backdrop of the horrors and pain of the war. The suffering is immense, and every plot twist or improbable occurrence is designed to heighten the suspense, drama, and heartache.  

The book begins with the historical fiction trope of a dying elderly woman reminiscing about a past she has tried to forget. Usually, I find this tired and overdone, and something that does nothing for the actual story, however, Hannah adds a unique twist that actually increases the suspense and drama. You eventually realise that you don’t know which sister is telling this story, and it is unclear if the other sister survived the war.  

Summary

The Nightingale is a sweeping saga of love and family bonds set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France. The drama is intense and intriguing and the relationships that Hannah builds are complicated. Sometimes the drama is over the top, but the story is executed well enough for this to be forgiven. You will be sucked into Isobelle and Vianne’s world and leave uplifted and heartbroken.

— Bliss
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Hi, I'm Bliss, the reader and writer behind Books For Bliss. Discover book reviews, lists for your next great read, or a story to make you feel great. It's all right at your finger tips; happiness on a page. Read More

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