Rebecca McCormick. Powered by Blogger.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - Review

Saturday, February 4, 2023

I bought this book ages ago and then picked it off the shelf when I was in the back bedroom recently. It's a great book, highly recommended by me! 

The book is set during World War II in Occupied France. It starts just before the occupation, when Isabelle has just been expelled from another school. She is an impetuous eighteen year old and she heads to Paris, where her father lives. However, he, as usual, wants nothing to do with her and sends her off to stay with her sister south of Tours. However, the Nazis are moving in around Paris and as Isabelle is moving south she gets caught up in bombing outside Tours. She finally arrives at Le Jardin, where her sister Vianne lives.

When the girls were fourteen and four, their mother died. Unable to cope with them and his own grief, their father sent them away to live with a relative at Le Jardin. Vianne, fourteen, quickly met Antoine, eventually falling pregnant and losing several babies before having Sophie, who at the start of the book is around eight years old. Antoine has been fighting for France and is in a prisoner of war camp when war breaks out; he remains there for the entirety of the novel. 

Isabelle has, as I've said, been expelled from several schools. She is fiercely anti war, and when a Nazi soldier billets with the family at Le Jardin she rebels against him from the start. The sisters have been estranged for a while due to their grief, their estrangement from their father, and just basically due to their different tempremants. 

Vianne is a teacher and still working under the occupation, so each day Isabelle must stand in long lines in their small town of Carriveau to get their rations. The Nazis and the French police who work with them are well fed and cared for, but the citizens quickly start to starve and run out of household items. Isabelle meets some Resistance fighters and becomes a courier of messages between Carriveau (which is very close to the border with Free France) and Paris. She comes to an uneasy truce with her father.

Meanwhile Vianne is trying her hardest to survive, especially with a Nazi living in her house. Now, I sort of had a problem here because the first Nazi, Beck (I think!), is portrayed as quite nice, and I'm generally against that. He gets parcels to Vianne's husband for her, and later, when there's no food, he provides food for Vianne and Sophie. Contrasted with the SS officer who comes later, he's portrayed so much better... But does he deserve it? I don't think so. 

Vianne's best friend Rachel has two children, and is Jewish, so as the Nazis hone in on first foreign born Jews and then all Jews, life becomes dangerous for them. And then Isabelle is getting more and more involved with the Resistance.

There's also some small parts of the book which are told in the first person, in which an old woman living in America is invited to Paris for a commemoration of people who helped people escape the Nazis. It's not entirely clear which sister it is, so you have to wait until the very end of the book to find out exactly what happened. 

As I said, this is a brilliant book and I really enjoyed it. I feel like although I've read a lot of books set in Central and Eastern Europe during World War II, I haven't read a lot set in Occupied France and I really enjoyed that, I liked the portrayal of how people were not only trying to survive, but trying to help those directly under threat. I'm giving this five out of five 

1 comment


Blogger news


Most Read