Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

nightingaleTitle: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Literary Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

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 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 girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth.  While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets 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.  But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures 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.

The Review:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a very compelling novel set in France during World War II. This riveting story about Viann Mauriac and her much younger sister Isabelle Rosignol is richly detailed and historically accurate, which makes it a sometimes heartbreaking read. But this close attention to detail is what makes it such a thought-provoking and outstanding book.

Viann Mauriac is happily married with an eight year old daughter when her life takes an unexpected and heartrending turn. Her beloved husband, Antoine, has been conscripted into the Army to defend France from the Nazis. In the early days of the German invasion, her father sends Isabelle to live with Viann and the sisters’ contentious relationship is further strained when Viann is forced to allow German officer Wolfgang Beck to live with them. As fighting rages on around them, both sisters are faced with unimaginable horrors as they struggle to endure the Nazi occupation and the devastation wrought by the long lasting war.

Viann is content to stay in the background and let her husband take care of her and their daughter. After Antoine leaves, she desperately clings to hope the war will end quickly and he will return safely to his family. This makes Viann seem naive and her unrealistic belief leads her to remain very passive for far too long. However, when her family is threatened, Viann will do whatever it takes to protect them, no matter what the personal cost to herself. She meets every challenge with a quiet strength that few people suspect she has, but will Viann’s efforts be enough to keep her family safe despite the brutality that is occurring around her?

Isabelle is rebellious, immature and dangerously outspoken at first.   Her anger and rage is quickly channeled into working for the resistance but she remains headstrong and fearless for much of the novel. Her tireless efforts save countless lives, but Isabelle’s risky and sometimes impulsive behavior puts herself and others into sometimes dangerous situations. Isabelle grows and matures over the course of the novel and she becomes a truly awe-inspiring young woman whose bravery and willingness to disregard her personal safety for the greater good is remarkable.

The Nightingale spans from 1939-1945 and Kristin Hannah accurately portrays every element of war torn France. From the first occupation through the war’s end, every hardship is realistically portrayed. The horrors of war are not romanticized nor downplayed, and this authentic depiction provides readers with a true to life perspective of what is indisputably a horrific time in the world’s history. This incredible novel serves as a vivid and poignant reminder of the horrendous loss of life, the terrible hardships and the unsung heroes of that long ago and nearly forgotten war.


Filed under Historical, Kristin Hannah, Literary Fiction, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Nightingale

2 Responses to Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

  1. Timitra

    Sounds good…thanks for the review Kathy

  2. Cindy DeGraaff

    This is a much different book from the author’s usual fare and I was a bit skeptical, but I like your review. It’s on “the pile”. Thanks, Kathy!