Book Review // The Nightingale ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Book Name: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
◐ Genre: Historical Fiction
◐ Pages: 440
◐ Synopsis (Goodreads):
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says good-bye 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 a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gaëtan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

Recommended for people who enjoy moving stories about World War II, and strong heroines who fought against the Nazi regime; family drama and love

Content Warning:
death, murder, rape, starvation, torture

Review: 4/5 ⭐
I picked up this book at the recommendation of a number of people, helped along by the beautiful cover.

At first glance, The Nightingale carries some similar aspects to another book I enjoyed, All the Light We Cannot See. They are both set during World War II in occupied France, with female protagonists that appear unimpressive. Yet it is that very lack of worldly impressiveness that reveals a strength of character and resolve they do not always realise they have.

Essentially, this book centers around two sisters who differ so much in personality and temperament that they have trouble understanding each other. Yet through the hardships and uncertainties of their circumstances, they come to hold each other dearer than their differences. This is the heart of the story, this sisterhood.

Kristin Hannah writes her main characters as authentic people. They read like real women who had many of the thoughts, feelings, insecurities, even impulsiveness of young women growing up in a rapidly changing world. While neither sister was a stranger to tribulations before the war, nothing could compare to the tortures of living under the Nazi occupation. One reacts by trying to play it safe (and gradually realising that to do so is hardly an option when faced with gross injustices), while the other reacts with fiery opposition that places her loved ones in a number of compromising and dangerous situations. Both learn from their mistakes, from each other—learn that they have a part to play, in their new world where right and wrong no longer mean what it used to.

For a 400+ page book, it held my attention from beginning to end, holding so much within its pages that a review like this could hardly capture all of it. We have historically significant events, turbulent family dynamics in the midst of them, friendships, reconciliation, and parenting of children growing up in such times. There is some aspect to enjoy for everyone in this book, making it universally appealing. We have imperfect yet lovable characters, a thrilling plot, and moments that move the heart.

While the writing itself is not so lovely as other authors, it wasn’t bad either. That is more of my personal preference for lyrical and reflective writing, but sometimes one does need the fast-paced style that keeps readers engaged.

What makes world-altering events matter is the individual stories of the people who endured through them: their heart, their loves, their losses. These characters learned throughout this book to cling onto what is essential and let everything else fade into insignificance. The cruelest entity in this world is not just the human heart; it is Time. How it passes, how there is never enough of it. To understand this truth is wisdom.

I’m glad I read this book. It was a welcome refreshment after reading three horrible books, and gave me hope again that modern books can also be good.

↠ Get your copy of The Nightingale ↞
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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 what we are.

As I approach the end of my years, I know that grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.

I want to imagine there will be peace when I am gone, that I will see all of the people I have loved and lost. At least that I will be forgiven. I know better, though, don’t I?

I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.

It all felt a lifetime ago now. And yet here she was, again, ready to beg him to—(love her)—let her stay.

The silence turned sour, thick; all [she] could think about was the sound of this child’s laughter and how empty the world would be without it. She knew about death, about the grief that ripped you apart and left you broken forever.

Some stories don’t have happy endings. Even love stories. Maybe especially love stories.

“It’s hard to forget,” she said quietly.
“And I’ll never forgive.”
”But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”

[He] laughed. How long would she remember exactly that sound? Not long enough. She knew that now. Memories—even the best of them—faded.

All her life she’d waited for those words—his love—and now all she felt was loss. They hadn’t loved each other enough in the time they had, and then time ran out.

Because of them, I know now what matters, and it is not what I have lost. It is my memories. Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain.

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