Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

Summary: 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 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.

Summary and pic from goodreads.com

My Review: I don’t know if you saw it or not, but this year’s word of the year was not a word. It was an emoji. An emoji! Seriously, people. What are we coming to? In case you were wondering, this is the emoji that won:
  . It is used to replace LOL. So. For all you old skoolers out there still texting LOL when something particularly funny comes up, you need to stop. STOP! Instead, you can be like all the kool kids and start using emojis.

Speaking of which, since this is a review (and a review of an excellent book, by the way), if I were to describe this book I would use this emoji: 

I promise you that you will find yourself like this in this book—mouth open, tears streaming down, face round and Fitzpatrick Scale default yellow. Okay, maybe not that. But I’m telling you that this book is sad.

One of my favorite genres right now is historical fiction. I love me some historical fiction. I feel like I can learn and experience history while reading about people who experienced it (even if they are just fictional). Really good historical fiction puts you right in the moment—you understand the culture, you feel like you’re part of it, and all of a sudden these parts of the past come alive. This is a book that does this beautifully. The story itself is really touching. It’s heartbreaking, actually (see above emoji), and that alone is enough to trigger steady streams of digital tears. However, one of the things I loved most about this book is that it is World War II on the home front (and in this case, the home front is France), and that home front was basically fought by women. Although these women were not necessarily out traipsing around in uniform and carrying guns, they were fighting the real fight—how do you feed your children with no food? How do you deal with an occupying army? How do you make due with the little that is left? How do you pick up the pieces from your broken men and survivors of the front-line atrocities? This book addresses these situations in a way I haven’t felt since two of my favorite books Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.

I loved this book because it exposed me to heroism in WWII I didn’t know much about. The story itself is incredible. Hannah is a good writer, too, which makes it all the better. But be warned—as with the war itself, although the Allies won, it was not without loss and sadness. This book explores that (cue emoji).

I rarely give five stars, but I think this book is deserving. It has to be more than just well-written or a good, exciting read. I don’t just hand out five stars because I laughed or cried to an emoji-like state. To get five stars, a book needs to mean something—to change my life in some way. I would say that this book is completely worth the read. I highly recommend it. It also recently won the best historical fiction of 2015 by goodreads.com. If you’re working your way down that reading list, be sure to add this one to it.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is about WWII and is therefore violent and sad in a lot of ways. It is not gratuitously or offensively so, however, and is on par with others in its genre.


Meredith said...

I totally agree. This book was a amazing on so many levels. The bravery and heartache that the women showed left me in awe. I rarely give out 5 stars as well, but, this book was definitely worthy of that coveted fifth star.

Jillian said...

Very glad to hear you loved it too. I loved this book so much and it's definitely my favorite read this year.

Coryn said...

What an excellent review. I remember hearing about this book when it first came out, but I never got around to reading it. Now that I know it has Ashley's stamp of approval, I NEED to read it [insert happy emoji here].

VaLene Hulme said...

I just finished the audio book. And I did cry - in two different parking lots when running errands/commuting. But the book was also redemptive. Some people lived to tell. The story was engrossing and sucked me in quickly. I needed a good page-turner, and this one did it.


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