The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

(No Series)

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

“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.”

I had high hopes for this one and see that I'm in the minority for a disappointed rating.

The book shone with it's ups, but the downs aren't possible for me to ignore. The writing is beautiful and easy to read with a lovely flow, but sometimes comes across a little flowery and overdrawn. This is the first time I've read this author - she definitely opens well, ends with a nice touch, but sometimes the story seemed to lose its way.

I think the real issue is the authenticity. I didn't feel it. It felt like there was something fake to me about Isabelle especially. That sort of rebellion did exist, but not in droves, and not with such convenience. Not only was she rebellious, knew who to go to immediately to get into the resistance, had all these hiding places conveniently around, and automatically so fierce and determined, but she was supposedly beautiful and perfect in basically every way. While the author wants people to root for her heroism, and I did later, she did childish things that endangered those she loved and cared about early on. Her actions saved lives, but she also ended lives for those who were close to her or close to others she knew. Sadly that is the price of war but it didn't have to be.

I find Vianne more realistic in the way she acted and handled things. At first, before the war when her husband Antionne was delivering the grim news that he was to be a soldier the next morning, their life seemed too picture perfect and staged. When he left, it felt a wee more realistic again. I found her story dealing with the town, the school, her children, and the soldier billeting in her house more intriguing. There was a tragic turn with that which angered me though, souring me more on the story.

I enjoy historical fiction about the war, but this one didn't hold up compared to some of the other pieces I've read. Grim, depressing things occurred (definitely) but there were a few too many convenient hiding spots, predictable turn of events for the people they associated with, and it clearly read as fiction.

It's supposed to be also about the bond of sisters, but I didn't feel endeared toward their relationship.

The ending was a good one at least, and it helped cool me to the story and rate a three over a two. It's not a beautiful story that makes you feel good, that's for sure, it left me mainly grouchy and feeling that this story felt too contrived. I will say that it was easy to read and hard to put down, so there are brownie points given for that.

If you're like many other readers, you'll probably enjoy it more than I did. The book and I obviously didn't have strong chemistry.

   Book Quotes:

“But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.” 

“Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking backward. The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present.” 

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