The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Release Date - February 3, 2015
St. Martin's Press
Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth
The Nightingale is a powerful tearjerker that I couldn't put down. It's told in two eras: present day and WWII France. Grab the Kleenex box for this one.
The story begins in present day Oregon. An older woman is diagnosed with cancer for the third time, and this time her son wants her to move from her coastal home. She cannot leave, however, without a steamer trunk full of memorabilia that takes her back to a time she does not talk about. In fact, when her son spots an ID card for a Juliette Gervaise, he begins to ask questions.
At this point, The Nightingale goes into the past. Two young girls are being forced to live with strangers after their mother dies and their father abandons them. One sister meets a boy and begins to fall in love, but the other sister does not thrive in her new situation and continues to get sent home to her father. This shapes their lives in ways they could not imagine.
In 1939, Viann Mauriac is married to the boy she met and has a young daughter and a seemingly perfect life. That is until her husband, a postman, is told he must go to war. Meanwhile, Isabelle is in another school for girls and again gets kicked out. Now at almost 19, she is headstrong and plans to make her father let her stay. He does for a little bit, but Germans soon invade Paris and Isabelle is forced to go to the country to live with her sister.
When a German captain knocks on Viann's door and announces that he will be living in their home. Isabelle resents how quickly Viann welcomes the enemy. While Viann is doing everything she can think of to keep her family safe, her sister decides to join the Resistance. As the two sisters take separate paths, the toils of war affect them both in very unexpected ways.
During The Nightingale, the identity of the older woman in the beginning of the story is never revealed. You may be able to guess, but with so many unexpected situations and so many twists, it's better to just go along for the ride and get swept up in the horrors of the war, the power of friends and family, and the will to survive. The narrative does a great job at creating the setting, the characters, and the brutality of the war.
I'd listened to the audiobook a couple months ago, but those CDs did not have the same power and effect that the book itself did. I definitely needed the Kleenex for this one and think it's one of Kristin Hannah's best.