Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions
Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Category: Historical Fiction
When this book was selected as the weeks read a few weeks ago for the online twitter book club, Read Club, I didn’t have the slightest idea that it would turn out to be one of the best Historical Fiction books I’ve ever read. But honestly, how many historical fiction books have I read so far?
‘The Nightingale’ is a stellar story set in France, during the World War II when the German Nazi’s took over the state’s governance. The story begins in 1995 where an old lady, diagnosed with cancer is moving to a retirement home with the help of her surgeon son. With little hope on what the future hold for her, the lady takes us back to what life was like in 1939, before the war took a toll on her and her family.
The flashbacks basically focus on the two sisters; Vianne and her younger sister Isabelle, a rebel young lady determined to fight for her country. Vianne lives in the countryside with her husband Antoine, and their daughter Sophie. Antoine was working as a post master prior to his duty jurisdiction been changed to an army man. He’s been selected to go and fight for France at the front among other men, news that is not well received by Vianne. Vianne’s fear is a result of how she saw her father change from a loving family man to a violent drunkard, which led him to abandon his children at an orphanage following the death of their Maman. As the war progresses and Germans take over France, Vianne is forced to live with two German soldiers. Of the two soldiers, I despised and hated Von Ritchter more. The man was a proud arrogant dictator who made sure that he had his way while he billeted at Vianne’s house. I remember throughout the book I just wished that Vianne would somehow find a way of eliminating him. He really got on my nerves!
I shared in Vianne’s pain and at the same time admired her growth from the naive rule follower to a courageous woman who put her life and her daughter’s on-line trying to help the Jewish children when they were separated from their parents.
Isabelle, on the other hand, having been expelled from yet another boarding school because of not complying with the school rules sets off to Paris to live with their Papa. Her father sends her to Cariveue, to live with Vianne because the war has just heightened and France has surrendered to the Germans. Reluctantly, Isabelle sets off to reunite with Vianne, though their relationship isn’t all that glam and all. Isabelle holds a grudge against her sister for neglecting her when they were young and instead, spend more time with her friends and Antoine, her then boyfriend.
The journey to Carriveau was an eventful one. While at Tours, the Germans fired at the French refugees most of whom were women and children since young men were recruited to fight at the Front. Isabelle survives by a whisk and it is at this point that she meets Gaetan. A young man driven by rage and hopes to one day liberate his country from the ruthless rule of the Germans. By luck, the two make to Carriveau but Gaetan will leave before dawn and Isabelle will only be left with a note and fantasies of a man she had fallen in love with immediately they met. Isabelle is so engrossed in being one of the members of the French resistance. At the back of her mind, Isabelle believed that she had a duty of giving back to the French people just like Edith Cavell. A British nurse who helped save the lives of soldiers during the WW1 with no discrimination. She started off by delivering newspapers that were speaking against the German rule. Isabelle progresses in her capacity to aiding airmen to escape swiftly to Spain and Britain. When the Nazi’s learn of this word is spread to find the Nightingale. Her arrest is a harrowing one that left me with tears amidst fear.
‘The Nightingale is narrated from the third voice which keeps readers guessing who exactly is the narrator. Some chapters are also narrated from the first voice and I have to commend Kristin Hannah for not immediately giving away the narrators identity something that will have you flipping through the pages curiously. I’m definitely going to check out more of Kristin Hannah’s literally books. Her writing wit in this book got the best of me and I love it!
This is a magnificent piece of History Literature that will tag you even after completing it and have you thanking your stars that you’ve never lived to witness war nor be a victim of it. This book offered me with more insights on WW2 that I’ve never read before. My love for France just grew on a high level and now more than ever I want to visit the country. Get to see the places mentioned in this book. I wonder if they are historical sites offer more details especially those centred around the WW2. As for Germany and Germans, I know this an old story and we are past that but guys, those Nazi men…., my grudge and hatred for Hitler just hit the peak of clouds. There I said it. But still, I’d love to visit Berlin.
Having let that out, I highly recommend this book to lovers of Historical Fiction, those looking for a well-written book on WW2 and anyone looking forward to getting lost in a good book that will leave them tagging on the book even when done reading it. Have you been to France
Have you been to Tours and Carriveau France? Are they exciting historical places to explore?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book if you’ve read it. If not get a copy NOW.
Happy new month!