The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah follows the story of sisters Isabelle Rossignol and Vianne Mauriac when Germany begins to invade France during WWII. After their mother died when they were younger, both sisters were rejected by their father and sent away. He was unable to cope with the loss of their matriarch and forever changed from serving in The Great War.
Vianne is the older sister who follows the rules. She got pregnant young, married her child's father Antoine and lives in the countryside of France tending her garden and cooking for her family. Isabelle, the younger of the sisters is the impulsive, short-tempered one with a biting tongue desperate to be loved. When the Germans invade Paris, Isabelle's father once again pushes her away and sends her to live in the countryside with Vianne. She leaves as Paris is under siege and has a chance encounter with Gaeten, a young man seeking to aid the resistance. They journey to Vianne's together and share a special connection.
Antoine is sent to the front as a solider so Vianne and Isabelle find themselves alone with Sophie, Vianne's daughter. Soon, Germans being invading their small rural town of Carriveau and they are required to allow German soldiers to billet with them. Enter Captain Beck. Despite being a Nazi official, he is respectful and considerate of both girls and the difficult situation they have been placed in. Vianne's strategy is to keep her head down and do whatever the Germans ask, as any opposition is punishable by death. Isabelle can't hold her tongue and refuses to just sit back while her country surrenders to the Nazis.
Isabelle's temper becomes a liability to both Sophie and Vianne and she becomes increasingly agitated sitting on the sidelines. Isabelle leaves Vianne and Sophie to take a more active role in the resistance knowing her absence will in fact protect them better. She begins escorting downed Allies piolts seeking refuge across the Pyrenees mountains and into Spain.
Vianne, left behind in Carriveau with Sophie and a Nazi housemate finds her own way of aiding the resistance. The story follows both sisters through the war as they are both subjected to Nazi brutality in very different ways. Their stories run concurrently as they both fight to help bring justice to those who are voiceless.
I had been anticipating this book for so long and I am so happy I finally got to read it. This is the second book I have read by Kristin Hannah (after The Great Alone) and I absolutely loved it. Her writing just sucks you right in. I was nervous because sometimes books that are really hyped-up can end up being disappointing. I can assure you this was not the case. The second half of the book I couldn't put down. The way Vianne and Isabelle fight through the war is heroic and heart-breaking. I cared so much about what happened to both of these girls and the ending left me both satisfied and devastated simultaneously.
I am hosting a buddy read of this book on Instagram and we are reading under the hashtag #nightingalebuddyread. We have our first discussion on the first half of the book Sunday and I cannot wait to discuss it with everyone. Even if you don't typically read historical fiction I recommend that everyone read this book. It exemplifies the strength of the human spirit and just how much one can endure during wartime.
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