The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

— Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

    By now, it’s pretty hard to go around talking about historical fiction without mentioning The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This story quickly gained a solid fan base and became an instant classic for most people who got the opportunity to flip through it. Set during the dreadful World War II period, this is a story that focuses on the Nazi occupation in France. As rare as that angle is, The Nightingale also strives to tell a powerful and emotional story of two French sisters who’ll discover the meaning of love and war in all their shapes and forms. Vianne, the eldest of the two, is a married mother to Sophie and wife to Antoine. Her struggles begin with the departure of her husband as he’s called to war. Stern by nature and always looking to remain safe rather than be sorry, Vianne’s adventures throws her into a tornado that will harden her personality and open her eyes to the choiceless choices that will shape her life forever. Isabelle is however a fiery and reckless young adult who has strong beliefs and will give you a fight to the death in order to do what’s right for the greater good, no matter the cost. It’s when the war begins that both of these two sisters find themselves pinned against a terrifying world and will inevitably have their bond put to the test.

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    The Nightingale is an atmospheric and beautiful story of love and war. Filled with descriptions that will draw you into the heart of France during one of its most darkest times, Kristin Hannah succeeds in delivering a heart-moving tale. Although Isabelle comes off a little bit too strong in her principles and behaviours, both of these characters, through their respective point of view narrations, know unbelievable change. In their hardship and losses, their lives will be pushed to the edge and will challenge each of their beliefs to ultimately bring them to do the unthinkable and sometimes the impossible. As things grow harder by the day, both of these ladies shine with their immense perseverance and control in times where primal instincts would be dominant. Through these characters you’ll quickly be able to see and feel the tangible struggle that sums up their lives. However, to balance the overwhelming feeling of despair, the story integrates various forms of love in an exquisite and delicate fashion. Whether it would be between friends, family or lovers, Kristin Hannah does an impeccable job at drawing up the subtle and unbreakable threads that link us with others even when life has you by the throat.

    While the story alternates between Vianne and Isabelle’s point of view, you also get another narrative that throws you into the modern day. Kristin Hannah keeps the intrigue high by leaving the identity of that narrator anonymous until the end, which helps in delivering a poignant and excellent ending to a story that never truly felt linear. In fact, The Nightingale isn’t exactly a story with a point A and B. The Nightingale is rather a war story that never truly lays out when it began or when it ends—does a war really ever end anyways? The writing remains top-notch with lyrical and captivating details that manages to translate both the moments of bliss and of suffering with accuracy. Through her writing style, Kristin Hannah also manages to capture the beauty of France as well as its growing darkness as the war progresses. The occupation that slowly becomes the reality of these two sisters also offers us a riveting and staggering portrait of World War II like never before. Filled with betrayal and manipulation, The Nightingale will stun you on the spot with its multilayered story and multidimensional characters.

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    If anything, this story is simply beautiful. While it does have parts that were quite slow, everything served a purpose and built towards character development. Spell-binding and haunting, this story puts two completely different women at the fore front and unleashes them in insane circumstances and heart-breaking conditions only to highlight their strengths and the bleakness of war. As Vianne and Isabelle learn to see light in the darkest places, you’ll find yourself loving these two characters for the decisions they are forced to make and the emotions they will stir up in you. These women are undeniably heroes of another level and Kristin Hannah succeeds in conveying their story in a time period where the scope was often limited to men. If you’re looking for a historical fiction that dives into the core of World War II while offering a unique perspective through the eyes of two French sisters, this is a must. Even if there are some elements that couldn’t have been anything but predictable, it’s how they are conveyed and how they are integrated that makes all of it worthwhile and devastating.


THANK YOU TO RAINCOAST BOOKS FOR SENDING US A COPY FOR REVIEW!

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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/

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25 thoughts on “The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

  1. Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

    I’ve added this wonderful quote to my list! This one reminds me a bit of the JoJo Moyes novel which was also about the war, but I think this one is even more atmospheric and deep. I have a special attraction to these kind of stories and I have a big admiration for authors who can write so lyrically and capture it so well when they weren’t even alive then. I really want to read this one! Excellent review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh, thank you so much Inge!! It is, isn’t it? It embodies so much wisdom, it’s crazy. Yep, historical fiction that succeeds in being atmospheric will surely turn out to be excellent reads. I’d recommend this highly if the subject intrigues you for sure! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LizScanlon says:

    Wow, I don’t think I’ve really read books based on WW2 that have the women as the focal points.. usually, it’s always been the soldiers. By the sound of it it’s quite the masterpiece and I think I should read this at some point.
    Beautiful review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      I only know two books that have women as the focal points, this one and the other historical fiction I reviewed a little way back (you might recall it) called The Women in the Castle. While it’s pretty rare, I think those two books are definitely musts in regards to women during WWII. Thank you so much for your kind words, Liz! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    This sounds like an incredible book Lashaan, and from the sounds of your review The Nightingale is one of those historical fiction books everyone should read as well. I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction books but the ones I’ve picked up I’ve really loved (mainly The Book Thief and All the Light We Cannot See) so I may check this one out too when I next have a chance. I am in love with that quote you featured in the beginning of your review. I feel like I’ve heard it before but I could be thinking of something else.
    Anyways great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Alongside The Women in the Castle, I think these two books are excellent introduction that covers the whole women in WWII era. I love the historical fictions you’ve picked up so far–they’re on my TBR as well hahaha–and I think if you’re feeling very historicalfictiony, The Nightingale would be a nice pick. Pretty powerful quote isn’t it? I think once you read the book, the quote resonates even more. 😛 Thank you for reading Beth!!! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        I’ll definitely have to check both those out then. I’m not always in the mood for historical fiction books but when I am it’s nice to have a couple of books on my TBR list I can pick up. Plus I love reading books set during World War II.
        That’s all right! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Anna @MyBookishDream says:

    This book sounds really interesting, I definitely want to check it out. Especially since I have heard many people say that it’s a very good and it’s set during world war II, as it’s a time period that I like reading about. Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      It is indeed quite popular! If you’re interested in the time period and what to see the role and power of women during WWII, you should totally check this out, or even The Women in the Castle. They’re both fantastic and beautiful stories to explore. 😀 Thank you so much for reading Anna! I appreciate the kind words! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    This is such a lovely review! You have renewed my interest in this one. I have picked it up and sat it down at the bookstore more times than I care to admit. I hear such wonderful things but always hesitate with Historical Fiction set during the WWII era as I always fail to find myself engaged. The pacing concerns me a bit as well. I will save this for when I am in the mood for something completely different 😉 If you enjoyed it, I am sure to find value within.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh, thank you so much Danielle! I’m glad to see your renewed interest in this. I still remember your struggle with historical fiction and hopefully this book, or the other one (The Women in the Castle) will do the trick thanks to their unique women’s perspective stories. Definitely hope you’ll enjoy them when you’re in the mood for them; that’s probably the most important part here! 😀 Thank you again for your kind words Danielle!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Karina Pinella says:

    What a nicely written review. You’re definitely getting better. I especially liked the rhetorical question whether war ever really ends, and I think not. There seems to always be a war in different parts of the world. Some more well-known than others. I have yet to experience a period in history when there is no form of war going on anywhere in the world. As I indicated in my post, Weeping Widows, no matter how hard we fight any of these wars, we still never learn how ugly they are. Because we keep on killing one another like that Energizer bunny that keeps on going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Karina. I really appreciate the kind words. It definitely gives me a nice boost to my ego. 🙂 And I agree… I doubt a war-free world will ever be possible. War seems to be a necessary ingredient to the balance that reality tries to cling onto. I also feel like even if we declare the end of any war, its repercussions are immortal. Just the psychological trauma it causes on that generation and the following makes war impossible to be absent. You’re Energizer bunny analogy made me laugh though hahah Pretty sad stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      You’re too kind, Meggy! 😉 Ahh yes, I still remember what you said in my review of Maus. I totally understand why you’d want to stay away from these stories as they might put through some pretty dark emotions that aren’t what you want to live nowadays! At least you now know what are the books that will surely stir up your emotions if you ever feel like revisiting your own history and see the beauty and the horror that once existed. Thank you so much for reading though! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Satou Johns says:

    Hey I was tagged on a Blogger award and I nominated you!

    https://inkishkingdoms.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/the-mystery-blogger-award/

    I hope you could participate! 😀

    I once read on a Amazon Professional Review that one must read the Triad of historical novels:
    All The light We Cannot See, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and this one. I have read the other two and they are really good. WWII was so hard for millions of people in different countries and for those who actively participated on the war or those who stated behind trying to survive and that tried to help from afar. I think you will like those two books as well…

    PS: I have this one in spanish, and I will read it soon, thank you for sharing. I like the pictures too 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you for tagging! I’ll definitely keep a note about that one. 😀

      I haven’t heard about Everyone Brave is Forgiven but that’s definitely pretty solid trio to look into if you want some good historical fiction. I already have All The Light We Cannot See in my TBR and hopefully I’ll be able to check that one out in the near future as well. Thanks for the recommendations! WWII is a fascinating time period where horrendous things have occurred, I somehow always find myself immersed by stories that are set in that period too.

      Hope you enjoy this when you get around to it, sir! thank you so much for your kind words too, I really appreciate it! 😀 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Satou Johns says:

        Yeiii! Thank you!! I will keep an eye to see your answers! (and the post in general haha)

        WWII is an “amazing” period for literature. Not only for all what happened but the books are full of human experience which makes a book really good. I like those books for the things that one learns while reading them. I will try to read it soon, and I will let you know on this same post haha

        Thank you for you replay and for being an inspiration :3

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    What a great review Lashaan! You hit all the best qualities of Hannah’s writing. While she has a strong pattern in her stories, it doesn’t mean the specifics don’t make it a valid story unto itself. (Modern and past POVs that go back and forth, sisters as the central relationship, older one a hard life with no choices, younger one the star)

    I’ve read The Winter Garden by Hannah. It’s also WWII with sisters but about their mother from the perspective of the Russians. I definitely agree that if you want unique woman POV of WWII Hannah is who you should read… I thought about reading this book but I have one problem with Hannah’s writing… she seems prejudice against older sisters and puts younger sisters on pedestals (I.e. No faults except to run head long into life *rolls eyes*)

    As always though you make me want to change my mind!

    BTW watched Captain America: Civil War recently, gawhhhh I’m not sure why I did that to myself?!

    Like

  9. Yvo says:

    Excellent review! I agree this book has quickly become a fixed feature for anyone talking/asking about WWII historical fiction. It’s not an absolute favorite of mine, but it was without doubt a wonderful read and I love your choice of quote!

    Like

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