Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristan Hannah
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is a stunning historical novel. Vivanne and Isabelle are very different sisters, both have had to endure their death of their mother at a young age and the abandonment of their father – who came back from the Great War a broken man and who turns to drink. Vivanne marries and settles in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and together they have a young daughter Sophia. Isabelle is much younger and goes from boarding school to boarding school feeling increasingly abandoned by her family. But then the Second World War breaks out. Antoine is conscripted to fight, and Isabelle is sent to stay in the country with Vianne.
This is truly a wonderful novel set in occupied France, with both sisters having to make ethical and dangerous decisions as the horrors unfold around them. The question the author is exploring is what a person would do, as a wife and mother, to save a stranger – even if that meant putting your own child’s life in danger.
For much of the novel the sisters are estranged and not aware of the resistance work both are doing in very different ways. This truly is a novel of bravery and courage, but also one of ragged imperfect humanity at time of incredible conflict. This is an outstanding novel, one that I am still thinking about long after finishing. If you read one book this year, The Nightingale should be that book.