Lately, I have found myself reading quite a bit of historical fiction. As a result, I have noticed there is an abundance of fiction centered around World War 2, whether it is directly about the soldiers or another aspect of that period in history. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is no exception.
The Nightingale focuses on two French sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and how each of them handles the terrifying situations facing them because of the war. The story compares and contrasts their actions as they stem from two close sisters, but also from two sisters who are quite different from one another. Bravery and resistance in horrifying situations take different forms in this novel.
If I were given a choice of the type of historical fiction I wanted to read, I would definitely choose fiction about those left behind. By this I mean, I would rather read about civilians and those left at home rather than the soldiers battling at the front lines. I want to read about the people behind the scenes, rather than those we already know everything about.
This is what attracted to me to The Nightingale after initially hearing about the title and how I needed to read it. Instead of talking about the soldiers, The Nightingale gives us a picture into what France looked like under Nazi occupation and the horrors people went through during the war, as well as the lengths others would go to in order to defy the odds and save others.
The writing was well done and the book is full of fantastic quotes you can pull and take inspiration from, even without knowing their context. I definitely liked the style of Kristin Hannah’s writing, and for that reason I would give her other books a shot.
With that said, I did not thoroughly enjoy the book. While there are some great themes and scenes in this book—many of which would classify as ones that tug on your heartstrings, given the nature of the book, I did not feel a strong connection with the content. I did not experience a strong reaction, something I love to have when I am reading a book. As I have said, it is my way of knowing if I am really enjoying my read.
I felt the author rushed through certain parts and as such, some circumstances and events rang a little false for my tastes. I doubt people could get false papers in a matter of hours, though I could be wrong here. As well, would the Nazis really focus so much on a small French town? I am not sure they would.
The part I enjoyed the most was the ending of the book. I think Kristin Hannah did a wonderful job of wrapping things up, even given my criticisms and disconnect with the rest of the book. I do not think there is another ending as appropriate to this story. It just fits. This actually plays into some things I was going to ask you for after you finish reading:
The narrator’s identity is quite a secret in the book. Were you satisfied with the reveal? Were you surprised by who it was? Does knowing the narrator’s identity change anything for you?
Even though I was not connected to this book, it is still a decent historical fiction. As such, I would recommend giving it a read if you are interested in historical fiction surrounding World War 2, particularly for a perspective not focused on the soldiers.
Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press