The Nightingale

the-nightingale

Title

  • The nightingale / Kristin Hannah.

Authors

Publication Info

  • New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

ISBN

  • 9780312577223 : HRD $27.99
  • 0312577222 : HRD $27.99 9781466850606 (ebook)

Length

  • 438 p.

Genre

Historical fiction; Women’s fiction

Formats

  • Hardcover
  • Paperback
  • eBook
  • CD
  • pre-loaded Audio Player
  • eAudiobook
  • Large print

Rating

5Q, 5P

Annotation

When the Nazis occupy France, Vianne does whatever it takes to protect her daughter, while her sister Isabelle joins the Resistance and becomes the Nightingale.

Summary

“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” With these opening words, Kristin Hannah reveals a gripping tale of love and war–the love of a broken father for his daughters, a mother for her children, a woman for a man, but most of all, two sisters who are separated by grief, anger, and beliefs about the world; a war that envelops and crushes a nation and a continent.

Vianne Mauriac does not believe Germany will invade France. She sends her husband off to the Maginot Line with the belief that the line will hold. When the Germans overrun French troops and occupy France, Vianne is dismayed. When a German officer is billeted in her home, she is terrified. She determines to do what she must to protect her home and her daughter.

Isabelle Rossignol, Vianne’s sister, is an impetuous young woman. Caught in the horror of the evacuation from Paris, her anger is stirred and she desires to fight back. Her anger and recklessness frighten Vianne, and Isabelle soon returns to Paris to work with the Resistance.

Evaluation

The author sets up ethical dilemmas with with no easy answer, and she makes no judgment of her characters for their choices. She shows how our choices are often influenced by our past and in turn shape who we will be in the future. It reveals that endurance, survival, and even forgiveness are possible in the most horrific circumstances.

The Nightingale is a moving and complex story, lyrically written. The characters are full-fleshed—they seem like real people we might have known, and the heart aches for the choices they must make and the deprivation they must suffer. The plot retains its tension and packs an emotional punch. Though these characters are fictional, real people lived this story. They endured, survived, made impossible choices, and found victory in the midst of defeat. Kristin Hannah does a wonderful job reminding us of this. A five hankie read.

 

Author

Visit the author’s website here.

Goodreads interview with the author about The Nightingale.

An interview on bookweb.org, the website of the American Booksellers Association.

Reviews

Goodreads

USA Today

NPR

Appeal Factors

This book will appeal to lovers of World War II era fiction focusing on roles of women in the war. Kristin Hannah fans will also love it.

Readalikes

All the Light We Cannot See,  by Anthony Doerr. These novels share a setting in Occupied France of World War II. Both are moving stories of courage and survival with heroic female characters.

Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. Both novels feature courageous women in wartime. The Nightingale features two sisters in France while Lilac Girls features three women–American, French, and German.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave. A World War II story set in Great Britain during the blitz. Both books are epic tales of courage, loss, and love.

Also check out Kristin Hannah’s novels: Winter Garden and Home Front.

Awards

Goodreads Best Historical Novel of 2015; People’s Choice Favorite Fiction Winner; Amazon Best Book of the Year; Buzzfeed Best of the Year; Library Journal Best of the Year; The Wall Street Journal Best of the Year

Booktalk Ideas

A booktalk could describe the flight of Isabelle from Paris and the bombing of this evacuation with material from chapter six.

Another exciting episode to describe would be the Nightingale’s first mission to rescue downed pilots (chapter 19)–the danger of finding a guide to trust, the desperate journey across the mountains, and the surprise of the officials on the other side.

Discussion Questions

Why did the author hide the identity of the narrator until late in the story? Were you able to guess who she was?

Why did Vianne choose to stay and billet a German officer rather than abandon her home? What do you think about her choices throughout the novel? Could she have done anything different?

What motivated each sister to her particular choices? In the end, did they find understanding for each other?

At the end, the narrator tells her son, “Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades…no medals or mentions in history books.” Is this oversight being corrected today? Do books like this help to tell those stories?

Why I chose this book

I love historical fiction, especially World War II era. I had recently finished All the Light We Cannot See, and was drawn to a story about sisters in occupied France.

Memory Hooks

World War II; France; Paris; concentration camps;

 

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