Follow Here To Purchase The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

It’s been several days since I finished reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and I can’t get it out of my mind.  Her vividly portrayed story of two very different sisters, living in German-occupied France during World War 11, continues to haunt me.  

Countless stories have been written about the cruelty, beatings, disease, forced marches, rape, abandonment, hunger, loneliness, violence, loss of hope, degradation and endurance that was the reality of millions of people caught up in the horror and unimaginable circumstances of their lives during World War 11.   Kristin Hannah’s book, The Nighingale, is different. 

While it too, touches on the brutality of human beings and the resilience of the indomitable human spirit alongside themes of fear, love, birth and death, the author powerfully weaves scenes so vividly that the hunger, fear, cruelty, loss of innocence, blows of a fist, tragedy of lost love, and family ties are palpable and gut-wrenching.  At the same time, the author dramatically and poignantly illustrates what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances when they realize that the oppressor cannot touch the heart: “My body, they broke that in the first few days, but not my heart.”

This author has an innate ability to immediately and powerfully draw the reader into the story.  As an elderly woman opens an old steamer trunk in preparation for her move to a nursing home and begins to remember incidents about which her son has no knowledge, a remarkable journey begins … a journey about Isabelle, the rebellious, impetuous and courageous 18 year old … a journey about Vianne, her older, ‘responsible’ and cautious sister in war-torn France.  

Their journeys begin at home with an unloving father whose cruelty leads them on separate paths.  Young Isabelle’s spirit of adventure, frustration with her family situation and determination to make a difference in the war, leads her to join the Resistance where she courageously sets aside her own safety to save the lives of others.  Vianne’s commitment to her family leads her to a life of intense sacrifice where she makes heart-wrenching decisions that impact the rest of her life.

When an author captures the reader’s attention in the first sentence, holds the attention through the first paragraph, first page and first chapter, you know you’ve found a treasure-of-a-book and are eager to read on.  

The Nightingale is a heartbreakingly, wonderfully edited, and beautiful novel written by an author who is attentive to detail, confident in her plot, sensitive to historical fact, skilled in the art of creating unexpected surprise after surprise, a philosopher’s heart (“In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are”) and brilliantly able to develop the characters in the story

The book begins with an old woman telling a simple story.  Only until the last chapter of the book does the reader discover who that old woman is.  Be prepared to be surprised by the ending.  Be prepared to find yourself caught up in the story of the two sisters.  Be prepared to discover your eyes well up with tears and your heart deeply touched.  Be prepared to encounter a story that you will not forget.