I’ve had The Nightingale (2015) by Kristin Hannah hanging over my head for quite some time, but I never got around to it. Then my brother bought me The Great Alone–also by Kristin Hannah–one Christmas, which I eventually read, and loved. This only increased my anticipation for The Nightingale, so I had high expectations when I finally started reading it.
There are a number of good things about this book. For a long book, it was a pretty quick read. I admire that Hannah focused this WWII story on the danger and privations women faced during the war. On the other hand, I was disappointed with this novel. I thought the characters were much better developed and the story more focused in The Great Alone. The Nightingale had too much going on, but not enough detail to keep it grounded and feeling real. I felt like Hannah shoehorned her characters’ storylines into the plot of the war, and it didn’t feel natural. There was not enough detail and too many coincidences. I knew something horrible was going to happen to one or both sisters, so I felt like I was just treading water until I found out what that would be.
Vianne lives with her husband and daughter in an idyllic town in the French countryside. She has barely seen her younger sister, Isabelle, since their mother’s death. Vianne was very young when she married her beloved husband, Antoine, and her sister has been getting herself kicked out of various boarding schools ever since. Their father came back a broken man from WWI and his wife’s early death finished off any fathering instinct left in him.
With the German invasion of France, Antoine leaves to fight, and Vianne keeps her head down, trying to protect her young daughter. Isabelle is horrified by the German occupation of France and vows to fight. Vianne ends up housing (because she has to) a German officer while Isabelle joins the French resistance. We see conditions get worse as the war begins and food gets scarce. And we continhttp://mylifeasseenthroughbooks.blogspot.com/ue to see conditions worsen as the war continues. Eventually, Vianne begins to house a sadistic, evil German officer, and the Germans start rounding up the Jews. Vianne does what she can to save the children while Isabelle brings downed airmen over the Pyrenees and to safety.
I had high hopes for this book, so I was disappointed with it in the end. I wish it had been more focused instead of trying to cram so much into the storyline. There were many unrealistic coincidences, which always took me out of the story. Even though it was loosely based on a true story, it felt very unrealistic.
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