The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Goodreads Summary: Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
My Thoughts: I love Kristin Hannah. I have read almost all of her books, and every one of them has put me through it in the best way, but The Nightingale might take the cake. I have been waiting to read this book for a long time, mostly because I know that World War II stories always make me uncomfortable. They put me on edge and stress me out because I am constantly expecting that the worst things are going to happen, and they usually do. It would be scary enough if it was all fiction, but since it’s all based in truth, it makes it that much harder to read.
My favorite thing about Hannah’s writing has always been her characters. She has a way of creating people and relationships that affect me deeply, and she makes them so real that they haunt you long after you finish reading her books. The Nightingale was no exception. The two heroines of the novel, Vianne and Isabelle, are sisters who are opposites. Vianne is meek and rule-abiding, and Isabelle is wild and impulsive. Following their journeys throughout the war was very compelling. Seeing how each of the women evolved while doing what they had to do to survive a war-torn France was both terrifying and beautiful. What I loved about this book was the diversity shown in all of her characters. She showed multiple sides of a horrible situation, and how different people handled it in their own ways. I think the juxtaposition of Beck and Von Richter was the most powerful. The way Hannah handled the scope of the entire war was very well done and easy to follow while still encompassing its large scale. I also loved the flash forwards to 1995. The mystery of the old woman intermixed with the rest of the story kept me guessing who she was until the very end, where I quickly became a mess of tears. This book was touching, horrifying, thoroughly researched, and very well written. I highly recommend it, but get ready for an emotional roller coaster and have a box of tissues handy. You’ll need it.