Book Review – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

by Maryse on April 16, 2015 · 14 comments

in My Book Reviews

The Nightingale
This was one of the most incredibly devastating, beautiful, tragic and eye opening stories that I have ever read. Absolutely unforgettable, utterly distressing yet uplifting in the hope that human compassion and fighting back in the face of adversity (any way you can… it all counts) will always prevail.

And this isn’t just a “tale”. This heinous period, this hate, this insanity… this evil… existed. Exists. And today is Holocaust Remembrance Day so I think I read this wonderful book just in time!

It captured me from the very start, and I could barely put it down. I swear it gave me at least three panic attacks as I followed these wonderfully human (yet heroic) characters in their unending struggle. And it’s when I received these recommendations, that I just KNEW it had to be my next read. After all, Kristin Hannah is well known amongst our crew. SO MANY of her books make up your favorites, so I was dying to give one a go!

For example:

Jessica: Kristin Hannah is hands down one of my very favorite authors of all times I have 5 starred every book she has written.

Jennifer: ”Homefront by Kristin Hannah. OMG I cried for 4 hours straight. My eyes were a wreck the next day. I’m sooo glad my husband and son weren’t home. They would have laughed their butts off. jerks.”

*snort* LOL Jessica!

And… whoa!! eek THIS IS OUR KIND OF AUTHOR!! How have I not already read her entire repertoire? rolleyes Especially after reading and loving this book, I know I’m in for ALL of them. And I’m actually surprised I started with THIS one. Why? ‘Cause it’s not my “usual” (it’s a historical, although from a period not that long ago… vs. my contemporary norm). But it was exactly what I needed. How could I resist these praises?

Athena: So I just finished an EPIC of a story and I want to urge you all to read this AMAZING story!! ‘The Nightingale’ by Kristin Hannah’ was by far of one of the most beautiful stories even written!! It really was one of those book that took you in from page one and still has a hold on me even though it’s sadly over for me! I laughed, I cried (holy moly did I cry), I fell in love and I was angry (oh boy was I angry). And yet by the end I felt at peace and for that I must say Ms. Hannah is an absolutely brilliant writer!! 5++++++++

Maryse: Thank you Athena!!! I’m on it!

Maryse: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah <— I am totally reading one from my latest reader recommendations list and it is SO SOOOOO good. Considering it has over 3000 5-star reviews with barely any lower ones, I KNEW this would be awesome. Now I’m only nearing the halfway mark and so it may be premature to say this, but I’d say for those looking for a “Bronze Horseman” richness and feel (and era), THIS. IS. IT!!!! Perfect writing, perfect detail, perfect FEEL. I’m scared… and yet I have a feeling… you know? eeeeeep!!

Kassi: Completely agree with you! I read this book last week and let me tell you…I cried and was rocking double eyelids the next day at work. The book was so engrossing that I read from 8pm-1am straight. It absolutely has the TBH feel to it. The romance is there but very subtle and heart-breaking!

Gina: She’s been one of my fav authors for some time. Check out all her books. You won’t be disappointed.

Sharon: I loved it!!

Athena: I’m so glad you’re enjoying it…I knew it would be up your alley!! Make sure you have tissues nearby you’re going to need them real soon!! ‘The Bronze Horseman’ was great yet there’s just something about ‘The Nightngale’ that was just amazing!!

Jean: OK, I really want to read The Nightingale after Athena’s adamant recommendation…

Athena: @ Jean, I know ‘The Nightingale’ is a little pricey but soooo worth it!! It’s a fantastic book with some of the most amazing writing I have ever read!!

And they were right. It was sooooooo good. But I’ll tell you… I had “noticed” this book upon it’s release, and the RAVING AWESOME reviews for it, but there was something about the blurb that just wasn’t pulling me in. And thank goodness for the personal reader recommendations that convinced me it was SO much more. So much more “human” and personally relatable (despite the atrocities that I couldn’t even fathom) vs… the whole hero/revolution feel that the blurb gave off. However, re-reading that blurb, it is perfectly what I read. It’s exactly what I experienced. But on a much more human level. Exactly what a reader like me wants to read. So if words like “Resistance” and “marching” and “betrays” makes this book seem too… spy/war/revolutionary-like (at least for us contemporary romance enthusiasts), think again! This is not a military/history book. It is one of human survival. And that of two “regular” women… like us. Even though they prove to be so extraordinary… fighters, each in their own way, both as important to humanity as a whole… as many true and good souls become when faced with such adversity.

This author detailed every single thing perfectly. The initial… disorientation. The devastation, the deterioration, the determination, and the destiny of the Nightingales. The daring yet very human heroes (two in particular are the ones focused on in this story) that aided in the delivery of freedom, once again.

So what’s it about?

Two sisters… Isabelle and Vianne, both with very different dispositions and a difficult upbringing once they lost their mom. Their distraught father, barely mentally recovered from the first war, could not cope, and essentially abandoned his daughters. One (Vianne) was just old enough to be living on her own with her new husband. The other (Isabelle), her younger spirited sister forced to bounce back and forth, from her father’s home, to her sister’s home  to boarding school after boarding school. It seemed nobody could “handle” her. That’s okay. She was destined for great things, and had she not been the way she “was”, she might not have inspired (unknowingly) so many in equally heroic efforts.

LOL!! There was one defiant scene against a Nazi that had me gasping, scared, and yet fist-pumping in her audacity and courage.

“It must be verboten for us to have anything beautiful, is it not, Captain Beck?”

Vianne gasped.

“Please, sir. Ignore her. Isabelle is a silly, prideful girl.”

“No,” Beck said. “She is angry. And angry people make mistakes in war and die.”

Eeeeep! And I told my aunt (she was reading it at the same time I was) that…

“I’d totally do the same thing. Just to prove a point! That’s totally me!!”

She chuckled… obviously unconvinced.

And then I said…

“*sigh* rolleyes Noooooo I probably wouldn’t. I’d be more like her sister. Obedient and non-disruptive. *hrmph*”

She agreed. confused Hehehe. Still though… don’t discount the obedient ones. ;)

And as the war takes over the world, and as France deals with the Nazi invasion, both sisters lead very different lives. Nightmares, actually. From one’s husband being called off to war…

He stood up slowly and took her in his arms. She wanted to bottle how safe she felt in this moment, so she could drink of it later when loneliness and fear left her parched.

and then having to harbor and serve Nazi’s in her own home,

“I will billet here,” the captain said in his bad French.

“Billet?” Vianne said. “You mean … to stay?”

“Oui, Madame.”

“Billet? You? A man? A Nazi? No. No.” Isabelle shook her head. “No.”

…to one that  is so appalled by what is happening around her, so intent on not only surviving but triumphing…

“Tante Isabelle says it’s better to be bold than meek. She says if you jump off a cliff at least you’ll fly before you fall.”

that she involves herself directly with the rebellion.

“You are a girl. And a pretty one at that. No one would suspect you.”

Isabelle didn’t hesitate. “I’ll do it.”

Things that I can’t even fathom surviving through.

Vianne also learns many life lessons… from a charmed life, to utter terror, and in the midst of it all, she finds herself.

“It’s all breaking me . I need to be more like Isabelle. She is so certain of everything. This war is black and white for her. Nothing seems to scare her.”

“Isabelle will have her crisis of faith in this, too. As will we all. I have been here before, in the Great War. I know the hardships are just beginning. You must stay strong.”

From unfathomable physical strains, to freezing, to the dangers of social chaos, to the even more dangerous soldiers and regime, to starvation… to seeing best friends, entire families taken away to camps. To finding that not all “enemies” have a bad soul,

“But V, you need to be more careful. I know Beck is young and handsome and friendly and polite, but he’s a Nazi, and they are dangerous.”

to realizing that too many of them… truly do.

I can’t imagine.

And yet this book takes you further than imagining it. She makes us live it. Twists and turns, personal growth, strengths and weakness, hope and despair. It’s all there, threaded with romance… and moments… rash decisions of “better the devil you know”… and all of that. Sometimes seemingly good decisions, turn into bad. And most of them simply cannot be helped.

Vianne felt something in her harden. It seemed that every time she thought she’d hit rock bottom in this war, something worse came along.

But there is so much meaning, and so much humanity despite such an evil time in our history.

“I hope you never know how fragile you are, Isabelle.”

“I’m not fragile,” she said.

The smile he gave her was barely one at all. “We are all fragile , Isabelle. It’s the thing we learn in war.”

And I’ll let you uncover every single moment.

…all at once she knew what she needed to do. “We have to try to save him or we are as bad as they are,” she said. And there it was.

And there it was, indeed. It is worth the tragic and dark journey because the unforgettable message of love, courage and the will to live, shines through. It will absolutely uplift you and inspire you.

5 stars!!!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

MichelleS April 16, 2015 at 3:46 PM

All I read was 5 stars.. blah blah blah….. WWII…. blah blah blah …. sisters….. and…. SOLD…. ’cause I am thinking it might be like The Bronze Horseman??? And I loved that one so much it hurt. Literally hurt. Cannot wait. I am saving this for my Maui read…. yay….. !!!!!

Maryse April 16, 2015 at 3:57 PM

IT IS kinda like The Bronze Horseman!!! Different ’cause it’s its own story… but same time, and devastation… and SO SO good!!!!

Diane M April 16, 2015 at 4:27 PM

i normally avoid fictional books about the holocaust b/c my grandparents were survivors and it’s a bit much for me, but I *may* make an exception for this one, i’m still deciding, looks so good (i never heard of her before i don’t know how that’s possible)

Amy April 16, 2015 at 6:21 PM

Oh wow, this sounds incredible. I read the first part of your review and got all giddy…devastating, beautiful, tragic? FUN!! Then I started reading the rest of the review and ohhhhh, it’s not *that* kind of fun. *chokes on foot* Historicals aren’t the norm for me (I *still* have The Bronze Horseman sitting unread on my iPad!) but I’m going to grab this one. And it sounds like it is so worth the price. ;)

Diane…*hugs* What amazing people your grandparents must have been!

Maryse April 16, 2015 at 6:52 PM

Diane… this one is pretty rough at times. No doubt this is a hard read. But it’s a wonderful one, also.

Maryse April 16, 2015 at 6:54 PM

Amy… OMG you have some great reading waiting for you!!!! :D

Diane M April 16, 2015 at 7:24 PM

Thanks Amy <3 Yes! my grandmother was the strongest woman i've ever met. Ok Maryse, i may start with Firefly lane or something else of her's instead, but i'm so grateful authors still write about that time

Athena April 16, 2015 at 7:38 PM

Your review was awesome!! I love it when you hear about a book and it is beyond your expectations, this was one of those books!!!

Maryse April 16, 2015 at 8:08 PM

It totally was Athena, and you’re recommendation absolutely HAD me. I knew this one would make a big impact on me.

Georgia Nikolaros April 17, 2015 at 6:27 AM

In my list … As always Maryse you have great suggestions. I do love history and modern history tends to be closer to heart. I’ve never read her books but you always have such great reviews and suggestions. Thanks!

Jessica April 17, 2015 at 8:35 AM

I’m listening to this on audible and it’s been incredible so far. I’m about half way through. I just really, really hope that i’m not a mess at the end.

Melanie June 12, 2016 at 12:01 PM

I am not a fan of historical fiction, but from all of this praise, I just may have to give it a try!

Maryse June 12, 2016 at 12:56 PM

You must, Melanie!!!!

It is SO worth it.

Michelle F June 12, 2016 at 4:31 PM

One of the best books I read in 2015! If you haven’t read this book, you are really missing out on a beautiful story about the courage and strength of women during the war but also a powerful story about sisters and about love. Unforgettable and inspiring because you know this could have been (and probably was) the true story of so many. It’s on sale now. Buy it! Read it!

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