Words cannot describe how much I loved The Nightingale. It might be because I’m a sucker for a good WWII novel, but I think it’s probably more than that. Kristin Hannah’s story sucked me in from the beginning. It tore me to pieces, and I enjoyed every second of it.
Vianne and Isabelle are sisters, but they could not be more opposite. The story begins with a rebellious Isabelle and a cautious, comfortable Vianne living in France at the beginning of World War II. Vianne, older than her sister Isabelle, is living in Carriveau with her daughter Sophie, her husband Antoine having just gone off to war. Isabelle has just been expelled again. The Nightingale tells the tale of how these two very different sisters are affected by the horrors of war, how they deal with love, loss, and learn to survive.
In the beginning, I didn’t like Vianne at all. I felt that she was shallow and one-sided. Oh, was I wrong. Throughout the novel, I saw Vianne transfrom from a terrified French housewife into a strong woman who had to survive the only way she knew how in order to protect her family. The same goes for Isabelle, whose transformation was less drastic and more of a coming-of-age. She became a fighter in a different way, moving from frivolous pranks and running away from boarding schools to fighting for France by risking her life.
Hannah’s style of writing reminded me of The Notebook meets Sarah’s Key. Which is probably a really weird description now that I read it out loud. The story is told on multiple timelines, from multiple perspectives: that of Vianne’s and Isabelle’s during wartime, and the perspective of an elderly woman returning to Paris for the first time since the war ended, fifty years later.
The Nightingale had me addicted. I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what would happen with Vianne and Isabelle, and I was completely unprepared for the hardships they had to face. Reading their stories side by side, each fighting their own, very different battles during the war, and seeing them come together as sisters was a 5/5 for me. I don’t cry, but this book made me want to. If you want something lighthearted with a happy ending, The Nightingale isn’t quite for you. If you want to read something that will make you feel every emotion you’ve ever had with a bittersweet ending, you’ve got your book.