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.
My Thoughts: The Nightingale is my favorite book of the year so far. It is an absolutely beautiful story with strong, fascinating characters set against World War II era France. All of the characters had this depth to them; Ms. Hannah created complex backgrounds for many of the characters to explain why each one felt and behaved the way they did. There was not a single character in this story that wasn't intriguing in either a good or bad way.
The story focused on the strength of the every day people in war torn France; Vianne and Isabelle were just average women trying to survive and yet they were able to deal with so much horror and did so with dignity. There was also a heavy focus on the work of the French Resistance. I know very little about the French Resistance but was amazed at how intricately they worked throughout France to thwart the Nazis.
I found the descriptions of the Nazis to be really interesting. The first Nazi we get to know is Beck and even though the reader is supposed to hate him, it's really hard to because he seems like an okay guy. I struggled with my feelings about him because Nazi = bad but he wasn't really that terrible. However, the second Nazi, von Richter, is pure evil. I feel like the author was trying to show us that not everything was black and white when it came to the Nazi Army and it made for some serious food for thought (at least for me).
The only thing that I wish this book had was an author's note. I would have loved some information about the research she did for the book. Other than that I loved this book so much and it stuck with me for days after I finished it. The end was so perfect and had me in tears. This is only the second book I have read by Kristin Hannah but you can bet I will be reading more in the future. 5 stars.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.