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El ruiseñor

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Francia, 1939.
En el tranquilo pueblo de Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac se despide de su marido, Antoine, que debe marchar al frente. Ella no cree que los nazis vayan a invadir Francia, pero lo hacen, con batallones de soldados marchando por las calles, con caravanas de camiones y tanques, con aviones que llenan los cielos y lanzan bombas sobre los inocentes. Cuando un capitán alemán requisa la casa de Vianne, ella y su hija deben convivir con el enemigo o arriesgarse a perderlo todo. Sin comida ni dinero ni esperanza, Vianne se ve obligada a tomar decisiones cada vez más difíciles para sobrevivir.

La hermana de Vianne, Isabelle, es una joven rebelde de dieciocho años que busca un propósito para su vida con toda la temeraria pasión de la juventud. Mientras miles de parisinos escapan de la ciudad ante la inminente llegada de los alemanes, Isabelle se encuentra con Gaëton, un partisano que cree que los franceses pueden luchar contra los nazis desde dentro de Francia. Isabelle se enamora completamente pero, tras sentirse traicionada, decide unirse a la Resistencia. Sin detenerse nunca para mirar atrás, Isabelle arriesgará su vida una y otra vez para salvar a otros.

592 pages, Paperback

First published October 8, 2015

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Profile Image for ( ͡❛ _⦣ ͡❛).
60 reviews636 followers
May 29, 2016
I really tried, you guys. There was even a 20% period when my standards were reduced so low from the previous 70%, that I thought maybe, maybe 2*. But the last 10% was offensive. Yes, I said offensive.

Review later. And by review, I mean bitch rant fest.


People keep asking me how I didn’t like this book. Honestly, I want to ask them how they did.

Never have I ever read a book by such a clueless, air-headed author.

And I actually don’t even mean that to be mean, or to pick on KH. It’s just that quite frankly, those are the truest words to describe what was obviously in Hannah’s mind when she wrote this book: nothing.

She forgets what she writes a chapter, a page, a paragraph, hell, in a few instances, even one sentence, earlier. Examples? Mais oui, but of course!

1. She forgets to age characters (this in the first chapter. Isabelle is 4 and Vianne is 14 when their mother dies. Vianne is taken crying to Le Jardin and falls in love. At 16, she’s pregnant, at 17 she has a miscarriage. Then, of her miscarriage, Hannah writes: “She’d crawled into her grief and cocooned it around her, unable to care about anyone or anything—certainly not a needy, wailing four-year-old-sister.”)

2. She forgets the weather. Isabelle treks out of the house pre-dawn in “knee-deep snow” and then steals a bicycle that same morning from an SS officer who is across the street in a cafe. Okay, so I’m from Ottawa, which in 2015 was the coldest capital ON EARTH. I’ll PRETEND you can actually ride a bicycle in “knee-deep” snow (you can’t). But Isabelle takes the bike straight to Henri’s apartment to hide it—I’m sorry but TRACKS?!?!?! The SS officer will walk out of the cafe, see the missing bike…and see tire marks that lead straight to the French Resistance headquarters. Or do you want to tell me people were plowing the streets in this village of a 1000 people?!

3. She forgets the season. Winter temperatures Isabelle climbs over a rose-covered wall. WHICH, to be fair to Hannah, I live in Tuscany, where roses do grow on some mild winter days. But roses certainly are not growing in Carriveau in the wintertime because...

4. She forgets CLIMATE. Again, I’m from Ottawa. Hannah’s descriptions of this French winter in her imaginary town in the Loire Valley seem to be inspired by the Arctic Tundra, because she’s got (wait for it, ARE YOU READY?) knee-deep snow, hail, ice rain, sleet, frosted windows, “ice-sheened glass” and “frost-limned windows”, “she didn’t want to go out into the cold white world again … she stepped over the threshold … and out into the snowstorm”, “Bending forward, angling into the wind, she trudged through the wet, heavy snow … hit the ground, cracked her head on the snow-covered step”.

5. She forgets where her characters are placed (in one instance, Vianne exits her bedroom in the middle of the night to write down the Jewish children’s names on the kitchen table, then finishes her job, leans back, thinks about her own kids for a bit…then reaches out and strokes her sleeping children’s heads, then cuddles in bed with them).

6. She forgets when characters have no money. Vianne stuffs newspaper print in her coat for extra warmth and gets a tin can of oil in the queue…but has money to just hop on a train to see Isabelle in prison. Forget the permits she would need since by then ALL OF FRANCE was occupied.

She also doesn’t seem to understand the definition of several key words in her novel: refugee, garden, village, poor.

REFUGEE: is NOT local inhabitants of a city under attack fleeing to distant relatives in the countryside or neighboring towns, or lodging in hotels in the countryside or neighboring towns. I also took a lot of issue with how Hannah describes these fleeing locals.

1. Chaos. Dust. Crowds. The street was a living, breathing dragon of humanity, inching forward, wheezing dirt, honking horns; people yelling for help, babies crying, and the smell of sweat heavy in the air.

2. like flotsam in the reeds of a muddy river

3. Like a thousand-legged centipede, the crowd moved forward into the great hall. [Side rant: as for this “thousand-legged centipede” does she perhaps mean a MILLIPEDE?!]

4. The refugees who had arrived before her would have moved through the town like locusts, buying every foodstuff on the shelves.

5. clothes so tattered and patched she was reminded of the war refugees who’d so recently shuffled through Paris, hoarding cigarettes and bits of paper and empty bottles, begging for change or help. [Isabelle, when meeting Gaetan—notice how she’s not part of these “war refugees” even though SHE WAS.]

6. There were dozens of people in her yard; mostly women and children, moving like a pack of hungry wolves. Their voices melded into a single desperate growl.

7. The crowd surged around him like water around a rock

Notice how they’re all…not human? Lumped into a collective beast (a dragon, rushing water, millipede, pack of growling, hungry wolves) that is THE REFUGEES? But what’s more sickening about all of this is that Isabelle was part of them, and yet never once does Hannah include her in these ominous descriptions of (dun dun dun dunnnnn) THE REFUGEES. Instead, she was getting kissed by the handsome Gaetan, because she’s above the smelliness of refugee status, apparently. Also, we’re reminded three times throughout the book that “the refugees” broke Vianne’s gate. This kind of language that dehumanizes refugees needs to stop.

GARDEN: Le Jardin is supposedly a garden, and literally means “The Garden” in French. But this “garden” is a fucking farm because in a 1940 French village it has chickens, rabbits (both plural), a stone wall covering all of it, a BARN with a car inside it, and ANOTHER cellar, a hill with a “hillside between the garden and the barn” and is so big that Isabelle can come in the middle of the night with three communists and move the car in the barn and hide a dead body and Vianne, inside at home, HEARS NOTHING. More implausible still, even after the wall was torn down, not ONE of the poor, starving French people broke in to steal her fruits, vegetables, and live stock.

VILLAGE: This village of 1000 people has Nazis, SS, and Gestapo, and a networked train system.

POOR (Part I): Seriously guys, what class were these people? Farmers? Because they own a farm. Village people? Nope, because they have expensive silverware, Limoges plates, Alençon lace, original impressionist paintings, and a spare bedroom. Let’s break down the math. Isabelle is 19 in 1939. She is 10 years younger than Vianne. So Vianne was born in approx. 1910. Which means…despite a dead mother, a drunk absent father throughout her entire life, growing up in WWI, living through the GREAT DEPRESSION that followed, getting pregnant at 16 (and going to university while pregnant, according to Hannah) miraculously her and her parents had money (they live in a house a mile away from a village of 1000 people, keep in mind), for a car and to put both girls in university. A car, a property with an acre of land, university for both daughters—I mean, I’m jealous here in 2016. Isabelle is bilingual, and knows how to drive a car, and is 19 years old and still in boarding schools in 1940 France, LEARNING TO CUT AN ORANGE. I just can’t stress the time period enough. Getting kicked out, no less, for failing to learn how to cut an orange. At 19. So then who taught her English, if her school was so worthless? I doubt it was her dead mother or absent father. To say nothing of the fact that back then at 19 you should be married.

POOR (Part II): During the war, they were eating cats and rats. People were stealing bread. There was nothing. Salt was precious as gold and used for preserving food, NEVER for seasoning it. Some examples of starvation during wartime poverty in this book:

1. but what about the coming winter? How could Sophie stay healthy without meat or milk or cheese? [Because bread, vegetables, and fruits were in abundance in wartime winters]

2. She had sold off her family’s treasures one by one: a painting to feed the rabbits and chickens through the winter [EAT. THE FUCKING. RABBITS. This is Europe in the 1940s for fuck’s sake. Eat the goddamn rabbits.]

3. Moments later, she carried out a heavy ceramic tray bearing the fried fish surrounded by the pan-roasted vegetables and preserved lemons, all of it enhanced with fresh parsley. The tangy, lemony sauce in the bottom of the pan, swimming with crusty brown bits, could have benefited from butter, but still it smelled heavenly. [Wartime poverty equals no butter, got it.]

3. “There is no food here in the city, Isabelle ... People are raising Guinea pigs for food. You will be more comfortable in the country, where there are gardens.” [As long as you have a garden, you’re fine.]

4. Vianne began finely chopping the mutton. She added a precious egg to the mix, and stale bread, then seasoned it with salt and pepper.

This book read more like a Mediterranean slim fast diet and a vintage fashion catalog than anything else. Other than Hannah constantly saying how much they were losing weight and starving and going without, I would never have known. Take away her adjectives like stale and precious, and it’s fucking gourmet.

If this book wasn’t so heavily inspired by Andrée De Jongh, I might not be so harsh on it. But it is. So, yes, a woman who WAS a war hero, after working for the Red Cross, who set up the Comet Line with her father, went to a concentration camp, survived—for Hannah to sentimentalise her life the way she did, it IS offensive. By focusing so heavily on Isabelle’s beauty, and having Isabelle’s beauty be the reason she so easily slides past the Nazis (even Isabelle admits this!), Hannah is actually ROBBING De Jongh of her strength, courage, power, heroism.

And I have a bone to pick with Hannah: the real Andrée De Jongh was not blond. I find it wrong for a blond American author to take a real woman, change her short curly black hair and add long blond hair instead (hair so pretty when Beck comments on it, SHE CUTS IT OFF), and then start saying she’s “impossibly beautiful.” Especially in a book about WWII, where Hitler was prejudiced to anyone who was not of blond hair, blue eyed Aryan race. What the hell?!?!

This book is no more historical fiction than Disney is a true retelling of the Brothers Grimm stories. Which gets even WORSE when you start looking at what Hannah opted to change from the real De Jongh. No mention of a spouse, in later life or during the war effort, is mentioned for De Jongh. She survived the concentration camp and lived until she was 90. She began establishing the Comet Line after she first worked in the Red Cross (ie, she didn’t scribble a V on a poster and hand out fliers and BAM, hiked Pyrenees). In contrast, Hannah gives Isabelle daddy issues, has her begin working for the rebels to impress a love interest, then has her die contentedly in her lover’s arms. What’s so astounding and disturbing is that all the things that Hannah changed about De Jongh, were the things that made De Jongh strong, powerful, resilient, caring, heroic.

Then there is the writing style.

The number of times that Hannah repeated the same mediocre turn of phrase had me feeling like she was just enamored with her own writing. Which was sad, because the oft-repeated turns of phrase were mediocre at best, rendered embarrassing after, oh, the fifth time. How many times does a car horn “aah-oo-gah”? How many times do characters note the black markings on the wall where pictures used to hang? Hint: one time too many. How many times is something “was all she could say”? (Seven times too many. Note to Hannah: if that’s all a character says, it goes without saying that that’s all she could say.) How many times do people “tent” their hands over their eyes?

The French words peppering this novel were the most generic one word expressions (oui, merde) that felt like Hannah couldn't be bothered to consult a French editor so she stuck with the most basic words. Merde is not the go-to French cuss either. Nor is it especially not the ONLY French cuss word either.

Similes that mix senses abound — “roses tumbling like laughter” is just ONE example. Clouds are stretched tight as clotheslines — it goes on. The result was, for me, a very cartoonish book with clothesline-hanger clouds (complete with clothes flapping), laughing roses, and a Roger Rabbit cameo every time a horn “aah-oo-gahs”. And, in fact, Hannah thought her little aah-oo-gah was so clever that she even turned it, in one instance, into a verb. Aah-oo-gahed.

I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried, you guys.

Think that’s not so bad? In the middle of a detailed rape scene, we have, ladies and gents, He kicked the door shut with his booted foot and then shoved her up against the wall. She made an ooph as she hit.

This is exactly the kind of sentimental, senseless, ridiculous, bullshit chick-lit writing that is PRECISELY why men make fun of chick-lit, and what basically sets feminism back about a leap year or three.

Then there was what I can only describe as empty calorie description. The only flowers Hannah seems to know of are jasmines and roses. Every time there is a group of people, a baby wails and women cry/scream. Every. Bloody. Time.

Vianne sat down beside Sophie. She thought about their old life—laughter, kisses, family suppers, Christmas mornings, lost baby teeth, first words.

This is a generic description of motherhood that I, a non-mother, could have come up with.

I could go on about the idyllic descriptions of France in WWII. All I’ll say is seriously, just pick up a vintage hat catalogue and French magazine and you’ve got the best of KH’s The Nightingale. We’re talking picnics with checkered blankets, brimmed hats, aprons, pencil skirts, berets. The book was a fashion show, really. The anachronisms were so bad too that it felt like watching a shoddily done play where the only thing historical is the fashion. (Expressions like “I’m pretty sure” and “bombed the hell out of” make appearances.)

Am I being too harsh? I could just be a little pissed of still from the fucking bullshit that was the last two chapters of this trash book.

SO this book is about two polar opposite sisters in Nazi-occupied France. Sounds brilliant! Except it has fuck all to do with sisters. It’s all romance. All the book does is romanticise war. You might be thinking, but come on, what’s wrong with adding romance in a war story?

Honestly? NOTHING.

So why am I complaining that this is “romanticized”? Because Hannah uses war and tragedy in SERVICE of a romance. It’s a backdrop, a pretty set, for a romance to play out, just like the 5,000,000,055 references to clothes, hats, and valises. Hannah even uses a real women , a real war hero, to service her love story.

Is this book really about two sisters learning to love each other? I wish.

Isabelle puts not just her sister but also her NIECE in jeopardy by bringing the downed airman into the barn. She escapes, Vianne stays behind. What happens when Isabelle receives a letter saying that Vianne has a new Nazi billeting with her? This:

Vianne was fine—she had been released after questioning—but another soldier, or soldiers, was billeted there. She crumpled the paper and tossed it in the fire. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or more worried. Instinctively, her gaze sought out Gaetan, who was watching her as he spoke to an airman.

And then a page of her unrequited love for Gaetan. That, you guys, is all the passing thought she gives to her sister.

Have you guys heard this famous quote by Winnie the Pooh? “Always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Well, have you also heard the modernized tumblr version? It’s the same, but with “and twice as beautiful as you ever imagined.” That last addition is usually written in bigger text or italicized for emphasis. I’m going to quote someone else now who analyzed it first:

Why did girls feel like something was missing from that quote in its original form? … Because the message that we constantly receive is that girls are not valuable without beauty.

Brave, strong, and smart are NOT enough for women—they must be beautiful, too.

Why is this related to The Nightingale? Because of THIS:

1. “[Gaetan] won’t think I’m pretty anymore.”

2. Vianne kissed [Isabelle’s] cheek. “You’re beautiful,” she said.

3. When he drew back, he stared down at her and the love in her eyes burned away everything bad; it was just them again, Gaetan and Isabelle, somehow falling in love in a world at war. “You’re as beautiful as I remember,” he said.

4. It didn’t matter that she was broken and ugly and sick. He loved her and she loved him.

Then in the last chapter, Vianne:

1. “I thought she was reckless and irresponsible and almost too beautiful to look at.”

2. “Isabelle Rossignol died both a hero and a woman in love.”

According to Hannah, it isn’t that Isabelle survived the concentration camps and is a war hero that matters. What matters is that she came back STILL BEAUTIFUL.

Yes, I do realise that she was bald and had malnutrition, weighed eighty pounds, had typhus and pneumonia and was coughing blood. I do realise that Hannah was saying that, despite all that, she was beautiful. Which at face value seems like a terrific message to send out.

But more important than her dying a war hero, was that she died a woman in love. Because that’s Vianne’s final thought, the final thing about her sister at the speech at the end. That she died a woman in love. Not, as Hannah tried to pretend, after seeing a free France and being part of the resistance. In the camp, Isabelle “had to stay alive long enough to see an Allied victory and a free France.” But she does see a free France... and still her life is not “enough.” In fact, she wanders out in the rain because “Gaetan promised to find me after the war was over ... I need to get to Paris so he can find me.” Her life becomes “enough” when Gaetan appears.

Why isn’t it enough that Isabelle is a war hero? That she was brave? Smart? Strong? Here’s a radical feminist thought: why can’t we, as women, just leave beauty out of the equation entirely? Even if she was a pretty woman, why does it need to be mentioned? And at every page, too?

Which brings me back to that Winnie the Pooh quote. For women, to be brave, strong, and smart, it is not enough.

Because Isabelle was exactly all three of those things.

And let me ask Hannah the same question she asked in the book.

“You should take a break, maybe. Let someone else do your mountain trips.”

[Isabelle] gave [her father] a pointed look. Did people say things like this to men? Women were integral to the Resistance. Why couldn’t men see that?

Yeah, Hannah? Well, do people say “He died both a hero and a man in love”?

I think not.

Let it be enough that she was a war hero, please.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
April 20, 2016
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”

What, indeed.

I really didn't know what to expect going into The Nightingale. Given the quote about love and war in the blurb, I kind of thought it might be an historical romance set during the Second World War - like the world really needs another The Bronze Horseman - but it turned out to be so much more than that.

There are love stories in The Nightingale, but that's not really what the book is about. It's about women in wartime, and it's an interesting, moving portrait of the Nazi occupation of France and what this meant for all the wives, daughters and widows left behind. We're told in the book that men always assume war is about them - it's true - so this is the untold story of the home front.

These are the women who are forced to house Nazi soldiers, the women who are manipulated into betraying their friends, the women who wish they could fight for their country and the women who secretly do. The main story is about two very different sisters - Vianne and Isabelle - who are trying to survive during wartime.

Vianne is older and misses her husband (who is in a Nazi war camp); she must deal with her rebellious younger sister and the Nazi soldier living in her home, whilst also making sure her daughter doesn't starve. Isabelle is one of those borderline insufferable characters that also inspires affection. She reminds me of fiery, annoying, but ultimately lovable heroines like Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind and Kitty from The Painted Veil. The best thing about her, though, is her growth. She starts out a naive 18 year old who falls in love with handsome young men instantly, and she later grows into someone wiser. I loved the way her characterization was handled.

On that note about falling in love, this book throws up a number of red herrings. When Isabelle instantly falls for Gaetan, I was rolling my eyes and thinking "oh great. It's that kind of book." But don't worry, that isn't the story being told here and Isabelle has a lot to learn. It's a multilayered book and none of the relationships are straight forward.

And it's also incredibly sad and moving in parts, as a book about war generally is. Children in wartime are forced to grow up so fast in order to survive. Take, for example, this exchange between Vianne and her daughter:
“Vianne cupped Sophie’s thin face in her hands. “Sarah died last night,” she said gently.
“Died? She wasn’t sick.”
Vianne steeled herself. “It happens that way sometimes. God takes you unexpectedly. She’s gone to Heaven. To be with her grandmère, and yours.”
Sophie pulled away, got to her feet, backed away. “Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
“She’s Jewish.”
Vianne hated what she saw in her daughter’s eyes right now. There was nothing young in her gaze—no innocence, no naïveté, no hope.”

You really get a sense of how the Nazis took over the lives of the French people. How it was subtle and manipulative, built on fear. They gradually caused divisions within communities, scaring people into betraying their friends.

It wasn't a perfect book, if there is such a creature. There were some slow parts that could have been shortened or edited out all together. And I wish the author hadn't used a bunch of American terms and measurements. For example, a "cup" measurement is not used in France. But whatever, I enjoyed it a lot.
In the silence between them, she heard a frog croak and the leaves fluttering in a jasmine-scented breeze above their heads. A nightingale sang a sad and lonely song.

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Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,223 followers
March 7, 2016
It was the comparisons to All the Light We Cannot See that attracted me to The Nightingale. Though both novels are set during WW2 the similarities for me stopped there. All the Light is a magical novel electric with beautiful resounding prose and refined artistry; The Nightingale is a novel motored essentially by cliché and exaggeration.

Clichéd writing isn’t just resorting continually to stock phrases (though Hannah does this a lot); it’s also straining for tension through exaggeration to the point where dramatic tension degenerates into melodrama. No surprise that clichéd phrases often perform a task of exaggeration. - “She was scared to death.” “She couldn’t believe her eyes.”

The Nightingale reads like YA fantasy fiction. Everything is wildly exaggerated so that WW2 is perceived as a kind of post nuclear holocaust world where this one event utterly eclipses the world we live in. The perspective of the novel is one of hindsight as if all the characters are experiencing not the daily hardships of the war but the totality of all WW2’s horrors. It’s like her research consisted of jotting down every single horror story and deprivation and shoe-horning them all into her story. It’s mostly set in a small town in the middle of France yet this small town is “swarming” with German soldiers, Gestapo, SS, Jews, bomb damage as if the entire war is centred there (I was only surprised Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t have a holiday home there as well). The two main characters are loaded with the ordeals & accomplishments of an entire circuit of resistance members. Isabelle is every SOE heroine rolled into one and Vianne is a kind of female Schindler.

Plausibility is often sacrificed to “thrills and spills”. In the space of three pages a Jewish woman is told the Nazis will arrive at her house the next morning. Three paragraphs later – or two hours later - she has magically acquired false identity papers. Three paragraphs later she is about to cross through a peaceful checkpoint when inexplicably the German guard begins machine gunning everyone as if he got bored just checking papers. He even takes the trouble to shoot the woman’s nine year old child in the back. This is all passed off without explanation as if it were a normal wartime incident.

The big surprise though is that the ending is genuinely moving and really well managed. Hence all the gushing reviews. Basically to enjoy this you need to anaesthetize your critical faculties. That done I guess there’s enjoyment to be had because Hannah is a decent storyteller and is good at developing human relationships. No doubt it’ll soon be a Hollywood film.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
February 16, 2018
I've been told by so many people that I need to read this book. It gets so much hype that I thought there was absolutely NO way it would live up to it. But it did more than that. It surpassed it.
My favourite books is a pretty exclusive list and it usually takes me a while to decide whether a book fits that list or not but this was an instant favourite. I absolutely adored it. Even just thinking about it now I am fighting back tears because this was such a beautiful and vivid story. I felt like I was with these characters through all of their terrible experiences and I just wanted to shelter them from it all. The women in particular, the sisters, were absolutely inspirational. They showed incredible strength in this terrible time and I loved seeing how women contributed to the war. This was just a story that really resonated with me. It has a special place in my heart for it was truly, beautiful.
If you like WWII historical fiction, or even if you don't, I encourage you to try this book out. I know I'm going to be encouraging basically everyone I know to read it.
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
747 reviews1,792 followers
April 1, 2015
With tears still running down my cheeks I'm writing this review. I've started this review several times and I don't think I'll be able to adequately put into words the power in which this novel has moved me. Truely a remarkable story that I, literally, beg everyone who loves historical fiction to read. I will be gushing about this novel for some time to come.
Profile Image for Laura.
408 reviews61 followers
January 23, 2015
So many 4 & 5 star reviews here, but I'm afraid I just thought this WWII historical novel was okay. There are so many novels about this time period and I didn't think this one rose above the heap. The last one to do that for me was Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and this just can't even compare to that or to David Gillham's City of Women.

There's some nice detail about the home front in France, which I have read less about than the English home front. And there are some exciting scenes featuring the French resistance's efforts to get downed pilots out of France. But there are also some small but annoying anachronisms (antibiotics were not really available until after the war; Germans didn't put up signs saying people would be put in "concentration camps"). Everything seemed very predictable: a hiding place in the barn is introduced; you just know it's going to figure in hiding Jews later. A kind Nazi is featured, as well as a sadistic one. And the last quarter of the book races through torture and concentration camps and death marches in a way I found tedious and unenlightening. Then there is what is supposed to be a twist at the end, but I felt like I saw it coming.

So if you really, really love WWII historicals this might be worth your time, but I've read better from Kristin Hannah and much better about WWII.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
April 25, 2020
4.5 stars. I didn’t mind that the story was slow because I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and was engaged throughout the book. Hannah writes so descriptively that it made me enjoy the journey and really painted the atmosphere of France. Each line was rich in detail and you could tell had been researched. And yes, I’m one of the many people who cried reading the ending lol.

What would have made me fully embrace the book is if both romances had been developed better and the characterization had been stronger. Isabelle still felt like a caricature of a “rebellious girl” to me with no other qualities (even though she was such a badass in the end). I also think if the book is going to focus on women during WW2, Hannah could have emphasized the sister relationship better instead of making them disjointed for most of the story (even if just thinking about the other sister or showing memories of them throughout the book). Since the romance wasn't that well-developed we could have used that time for the sister relationship instead to really hone in on the theme and purpose of this book. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed this book and its beautiful writing. I will say though that I cried much harder in “All the Light We Cannot See” and “Lovely War” so maybe that's why I hesitate to fully give it 5 stars, because I know I am capable of more tears!
Profile Image for  Teodora .
331 reviews1,771 followers
April 20, 2023
4.5/5 ⭐

Full review on my Blog: The Dacian She-Wolf 🐺

I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I really have a predilection when I read historical fiction: The Second World War.

Even in school, I always thought that this was the most interesting part of the whole history we were taught (maybe because our history teacher was a bit obsessed with that period too, who knows).

I want to start talking about this book – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

I thought I was going to love this so much as I did with other WWII-plot-based books, but after about 250 pages it was something about it that to me felt incomplete. And I was fairly disappointed. It felt exactly how it was but it didn’t want to seem like: a story of some French girls living in the WWII France, a story narrated by an American.

I am not being mean. I am only being honest. Here, either the story was indeed a bit sugar-coated as a historical fact, or I don’t know, man, it was maybe too much of the American enthusiastic positive thinking in it. French suffered more in the war then seeing the Germans drinking their French wine really, but after all, everyone suffered big time in that war, including Germany (if you believe it or not). It was war, no one got out of there looking richer or more beautiful or smarter. And this is an universally approved fact.

Now, living all this sensitive content of who is good and who is bad behind because it isn’t the point here because in war everything changes and nothing is good or bad anymore, let’s move to the actual plot. Because things changed dramatically after more than half of boring and slow description and half-actions.

„In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

I will say that I loved the whole idea of the 1995 perspective upon the events that happened from the summer of 1939 on. It is a great way to construct a novel, it gives it a bit of fluidity and a sense of emotional connection. It shows that the same very person can live as many and as different lives in the real life. It is a fascinating narrative perspective. And giving the fact that at the end the whole idea comes with a twist it makes it even more special. It is heart-felt.

„Of course, men always think war is about them.”

I really loved this whole idea of putting in spotlight the fact that war is not only for men but also women have crucial roles in the whole process. Women in war are like the link of a chain in a great big machine – if there’s no link, there’s no machine. War is dangerous, but even so, those women back then chose to sneak around the so-called law forced upon them, look the danger in the eyes and smile. And this is what makes them greater than they think they could be.

Those two sisters in the book, Vianne and Isabelle, are as different one from another as Mars and Neptun. Vianne is sensitive, taciturn, happy to live a simple life, she doesn’t need to stand out in any way – she’s a survivor; Isabelle, on the other hand, is wild and free and full of passion and has an enormous desire to help do big things – she’s a fighter. What this war thought the two sisters is that they need to fight their own fight along with the others in order to get through – and the ways to do it are dangerous and unimaginable, almost impossible.

The book was a mixture of amazing persons with beautiful and courageous hearts put in the wrong place at the wrong time, alongside wicked people with poisoned minds and hearts. I can’t even tell you how much I loved and respected Rachel de Champlain, this amazingly strong woman who didn’t back down and couldn’t let anyone back her down. And also, what an amazing character Captain Wolfgang Beck was? I mean, he truly was the voice of so, so many good Germans who purely had to fight for their country because they had to respect a vow they’ve made to the homeland and to themselves. Beck really was put there to show the world that not all good guys are good guys and definitely not all bad ones are as bad as they are shown to be.

Black is the night when its sky is moonless, but, after all, everyone knows the stars are still there.

„But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”

This book teaches us to love. It shows us the horrors of a loveless world and it reminds us to love each other any and every day.


Also, as endnote or side note, I couldn’t help but wonder: what if Mrs Hannah had a tiny bit of inspiration from the whole history of yet another famous nightingale, „The Lady with the Lamp”, Florence Nightingale? Just a thought, but, coincidence or not, the idea was, after all, very cleverly put together.
Profile Image for Kat.
270 reviews80k followers
Shelved as 'will-not-finish'
October 29, 2020
dnf @ 24%

idk y'all, i'm not understanding the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this one. it all feels very shallow & anachronistic in a way that makes me believe that kristin hannah doesn't have a strong grasp on the period she's writing about. in another month i might keep going and try to find something redeeming about this story, but at the moment i just don't have what it takes to power through 600 pages of mediocrity...
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,458 reviews2,406 followers
September 5, 2023
Halfway through the book I was like I don't think I will cry or even feel sad, why is everyone talking about how sad it is and making a big deal out of it.
Trudge on, I told myself.
Then came the second half of the book.
It's insanely fast paced by then for a historical fiction. And things started making sense.

Regarding the first half of the book, I was busy judging the characters and the events that were happening. But still the writing style's really good that it was not an issue continuing on.

The characters seem complex and unreasonable at the beginning but things fall in place as the story continues. Relationships develop and you will want more of these characters. All you would want is to make them all be together and enjoy a good meal at least once before the book ends.

The separations and the heartbreaks, the communication gaps and the unavoidable situations will break you. The ending is beautiful yet it leaves you totally sobbing and broken. But your heart will have the acceptance and closure, the ending feels so wholesome.

I have never cried so hard reading a fiction in my entire life.

This book is all about family and I am a sucker for historical fiction ☕

**Is there any other book in which sisters sacrifice this much for each other?

Let me grieve. I won't be the same again.
This book is my most memorable read at the end of 2019.
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,195 followers
Want to read
May 16, 2020
A 4.56 rating with almost 500,000 ratings, what is this sorcery?
Profile Image for MomToKippy.
205 reviews89 followers
September 28, 2015
For me this was a fusion of sub-literary chick lit and WWII fiction in that it was too cliche and melodramatic much of the time. I thought the female perspective of occupied France and the tales of the resistance as well as the opposing sisters' perspectives were generally good ideas but the whole thing lacked in the execution.

The tone of the book doesn't feel authentic to the time period and there are numerous unbelievable incidents and interactions. The historical facts are covered but the atmosphere and characters feel too modern. There are just too many dialogue and behavioral anachronisms. It's as if the the history had been researched only superficially and the rest filled in by the author's imagination with caricatures and stereotypes.

Sorry but I think Hannah's fans deserve better.

Profile Image for Aestas Book Blog.
1,059 reviews74.9k followers
March 13, 2015

HOLY WOW!!! This book was absolutely epic! A sweeping, breathtaking journey that captivated me from the first page with the strength and beauty of the writing. Truly an unforgettable story!

The Nightingale has a 4.8/5 rating average on Amazon (which is HUGE!!) and what that basically means is that practically everyone who is reading it is loving it. And I'm now adding my own 5 STAR rating to that list because this book owned my heart. The ending was so powerful that I read the last 10 pages with tears pouring down my face and days after finishing my read, I still can't stop thinking about it.

I will say upfront though that this book was a little different than the kinds I usually read and review though because it wasn't solely focused on a love story, even though there were two love stories within it.

While men endure great hardship during war, it affects everyone. This is the often-unspoken story of women's war. Mothers, daughter, sisters, wives... this is the story of their strength, endurance, sacrifice, and courage during the darkest part of their lives. So many of them didn't just wait for their men to return but took many grave risks to save as many other lives as they could.

We begin the story in 1995 with an old woman towards the end of her life, moving out of her house into a retirement home. Without much of a future ahead of her, she begins to look backward at her past, taking us with her through her life story beginning in France 1939, right before the war changed her peaceful life.

The flash back segments of the book are largely focused on two sisters: the older Vianne, the rule follower, and the younger Isabelle, the rebel. Vianne's idealic life in the countryside with her husband, Antoine, who she'd been in love with since she was fourteen and their young daughter, Sophie, was changed when he was to be mobilized and called to duty to fight in WW2. The postman became a soldier overnight, and the man she loved was sent to the front, leaving her behind not knowing what the future would bring.

He stood up slowly and took her in his arms. She wanted to bottle how safe she felt in this moment, so she could drink of it later when loneliness and fear left her parched...

“I love you,” he said against her lips.

“I love you, too,” she said but the words that always seemed so big felt small now. What was love when put up against war.

Months into her husband's deployment, with no word still from him and with their already-dire situation getting worse and worse after France surrendered to Germany, Vianne and Sophie's lives are once again changed when a young German officer requisitions their home, making it his own. Faced with one hardship after another, they both do everything they can to survive, and pray for Antoine's safe return.

“You needn’t worry, Madame,” he said. “We have been admonished to act as gentlemen. My mother would demand the same, and, in truth, she scares me more than my general.” It was such an ordinary remark that Vianne was taken aback.

She had no idea how to respond to this stranger who dressed like the enemy and looked like a young man she might have met at church…

He remained where he was, a respectful distance from her. “I apologize for any inconvenience, Madame.”

"My husband will be home soon.”

“We all hope to be home soon.”

Miles away, Vianne's younger sister Isabelle attends a sort of finishing school for French woman and hates every single moment of it. Her outspoken and rebellious nature unwilling to bow to their rules. When the war comes though, she makes her way through the wilderness to Paris.

Her beloved city was like a once-beautiful courtesan grown old and thin, weary, abandoned by her lovers. In less than a year, this magnificent city had been stripped of its essence by the endless clatter of German jackboots on the streets and disfigured by swastikas that flew from every monument.

Refusing to accept France's surrender, and despite her sister's pleading to stay quiet and safe, she follows her heart and meets a young man named Gaetan. She falls in love with him and his belief that the French can fight the Nazis from within France. But when things take an unexpected turn, she decides to take matters into her own hands, regardless of what anyone tells her she can't do, and joins an underground group, The Resistance, that risks their lives to make a difference and help save as many others as they can.

On this cool October morning, her life would change. From the morning she boarded this train… she would no longer be the girl in the bookshop…

From now on, she was Juliette Gervaise, code name the Nightingale.

You know that feeling when a book is so absorbing that you just want to cancel all your plans so you can keep reading it... and even when you can't read it, you're thinking about it? Yeah, that was me with this book! Once I started reading, I could barely put it down until I'd reached the last page.

As the past and present storylines began to entwine, these shivers ran down me as certain reveals were brought into the light. Real shivers. Tears would spring to my eyes with even the simplest of things -- but ones that had such a hugely powerful impact on the story. A letter from Paris. BOOM. Tears.

“Please… Just say strong and be there for me when the time comes for me to leave this cage… Because of you, I can survive. I hope that you can find strength in me, too, V. That because of me, you will find a way to be strong.

Hold my daughter tightly tonight, and tell her that somewhere far away, her papa is thinking of her. And tell her I will return.

I love you.”

This book is honest in portraying the events that occurred to these characters, but not overly graphic. It doesn't need to be. The things that happen, and they way they are told are so powerful that you FEEL them. There are some scenes though that are hard to read because they are quite painful and I'll warn that there may be triggers for some people, but then again, this is a story that takes place during a brutal war. There's everything you can expect from such a story -- brutal firefights, prison camps, beatings, near starvation, sacrifice... but there is also hope, resilience, survival. As I neared the end of the book, during the last few pages, tears began to pour down my face. It was achingly beautiful.

Many of you will be wondering if there is a happy ending. I don't want to give things away, but I want you to know that I was completely okay with this ending. It's naturally not all sunshine and roses, how can it be with such a setting? But my gut feeling tells me that even hard-core romance fans will still love this book. I was moved to tears several times, but in many ways my heart was healed.

“I love you, Antoine Mariac, and I expect you to come home to me.”

Kristin Hannah's writing is some of the best I've ever read. It's extraordinarily vivid and evocative. This was my first book by her and I felt like I was right there with these characters -- not only were their emotions so strongly conveyed, but the picture of their surroundings came to life before my eyes.

I have searched for years without luck for a book that could even come close to comparing to my all-time favorite book, The Bronze Horseman (more into here). This book however, is the closest I’ve ever come to one that captured a similar feeling. The story is vastly different — while The Bronze Horseman completely revolved around one love story that was the driving force behind the entire trilogy, The Nightingale was focused on two sisters and their experiences surviving the war -- while the sisters each had their own love stories, it was their personal journeys that this book was focused on. I also found TBH to generally be more emotional than TN. So, it’s not of course a direct parallel. But I will say that if you’re a fan of TBH and if, like me, you’ve been searching for years for a similar book, then you absolutely must read this.

This was honestly one of the most powerful stories I've read. It will stay in my heart, I know this for a fact. More than anything, what I take away from it is gratitude... gratitude for every single freedom and luxury that I know so many of us naturally take for granted. They are precious. This book reminded me of that.

Rating: 5 STARS!! Standalone novel.

For those of you who want to know who lives and who dies...

For more of my reviews, book news and updates:
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Profile Image for Irina.
97 reviews152 followers
October 28, 2020
I'm crying 😭💔 I read a lot of amazing books this year but this one broke me. This novel was everything that I wanted in a historical fiction.
I don't know how to express what I feel right now. This book is a must read for everyone.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,483 reviews79k followers
February 6, 2019
I'm not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but the quality and sheer excellence to this story blew my mind. I'm not typically a fan of historical fiction, which is likely why I've avoided it for so long, but once this was described to me as "historical fiction light" I felt it was safe to take a gamble on it. When we decided for this to be the Suspenseful Clues and Thrilling Reviews September book choice, I was nervous because WHAT IF I HATED THIS BELOVED BOOK?!

Clearly this is a WWII saga, but at heart I felt this was a variety of love stories. Sure there was romance, but I'm talking the love for a people, the love for a country, and the love for fighting for all that is good and right. It'll be awhile before I can pick up another emotional read because I don't know how I'll recover from this one! Please, even if (like me) you steer clear of historical fiction and love stories, do yourself a favor and pick this up. ❤️

*Feel free to join in our discussion via the link below!

Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
851 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

1.5 stars. Oh, the IRONY. You might have never heard of it, but in 1981 French author Régine Deforges released a book called La bicyclette bleue, 1939-1942 (part of a trilogy), which related the story of two sisters** during WWII in France. Léa, the outspoken, rebel and reckless one, who joins the Resistance after fleeing from the invasion of Paris and Françoise, the older, who has to live under the same roof of a SS during the Occupation. RING A BELL?

This novel, many times bestseller in France, borrowed A LOT from Gone with the Wind, which led to many trials (that Régine Deforges won, in the end, saying that it was all part of "a game" with her editor - Where have I heard that before? Hmm).

Anyway. It seems oh so ironic to me to find so many similarities between The Nightingale and La bicyclette bleue, 1939-1942, because, you know, I'm resilient, but reading the same story is starting to get old.

Of course, of course, I exaggerate, and I'm not saying that Kristin Hannah plagiarized Régine Deforges's novel. As for Gone with the Wind's parts, there's none here as far as I'm concerned. No. Both authors of these WWII novels must have used the same inspirations is all - especially real testimonies, surely.

Yet it throws me off, even if I didn't even like La bicyclette bleue, 1939-1942 - I'm not a fan, but I can't forget the plot either, and Kristin Hannah's characters don't strike me as interesting enough to follow the same storyline again. I know, I'm talking about WWII settings and I should love and suffer and FEEL for these characters but ... I just don't. They seem very flat and unrealistic to me? Sorry?

Oh, and you know what else throws me off? The shameless lack of any researches about the world. Anachronisms everywhere. Post-card France in one meal (I mean, the Baguette, the canelés, the ile flottante, Cognac (for reasons), the Lavander and Rosamery (which are Provencal plants but WHY THE FUCK NOT). Vianne & Antoine luxurious - YES, those meals and houses are VERY luxurious for that period of time - lifestyle that their jobs cannot explain. Antoine is a postman, alright? In 1939 his salary should be around 600 francs per year. As for Vianne, as a teacher, she could pretend to 900 francs, tops. How in the WORLD can they have 65,000 francs in the bank?! Tell me, really, I need to know how to multiply my funds like that (if that's explained later in the book, I apologize).

Perhaps it sounds like details to you, and perhaps they are. But when I read an Historical novel, more than Historical facts I need for the book to carry me away in another time. I need to BELIEVE in it. I sure don't want to read about some cliché, too modern world lacking any savor, picturing my country in such a stereotypical way. So fake, really. Not to mention that I found the writing repetitive and too dramatic, the dialogue awkward and way too much telling rather than showing.

The Nightingale tackles such an essential issue - indeed I believe that the portrayal of women's role in WWII is VERY important, and I understand why it would appeal to many readers. Yet I can't see myself finishing it, because really, the similarities and clichés are killing me.

Wasted potential, sadly. They do have the curse words right, though. Merde.

PS. This is a detail, but I do not know one Parisian who would INSTANTLY say something along the lines as, "oh, the bomb must have fallen into the 2nd Arrondissement". Nope. Streets, districts names like la Bastille or Les Halles, alright, but randomly quoting an arrondissement when YOU'RE NOT EVEN PARISIAN? Pl-ease. Unbelievable - like the whole thing, apparently.

The Nightingale is FULL of inaccuracies like this one, and I expected more from the winner of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award in HISTORICAL fiction
. Ugh.

** Three, actually - thanks Anne for reminding me :D

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Nea.
162 reviews161 followers
April 30, 2015
Kristin Hannah is a pro in the chick-lit genre, and I applaud her efforts to break into historical fiction with The Nightingale. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I loved the result.

When I read historical fiction in a war setting, I expect a certain rawness that just wasn't delivered here. Yes, she included historically accurate descriptions of carnage, but the tone was destroyed with a barrage of trite elements.

The two main characters happen to be beautiful, irresistible, young sisters with daddy issues. Of course! Isabelle is a rebellious, virgin brat who engages in her first act of passion with a handsome, bad-boyish, older guy who doesn't seem to notice that they are both starving, injured, stinking to high hell, covered in blood, and stuck outside after running for days from enemy planes and bullets.

Vianne, the older sister, is equally beautiful and naive, but also disgustingly helpless, fragile and unable to think for herself. I daydreamed of slapping her several times.

Character development allowed for some improvement in the women, so they weren't totally unlikable throughout the book. However, they never felt real. They felt like Hollywood characters: The perfect actresses who play the roles of average people.

I think I threw up in my mouth a bit with the addition of a strikingly handsome, kind Nazi acting as some type of Prince Charming on his time off from beating and killing people. Between the lines I read: "Oh yes, Mr. Nazi, you're irresistible, let's enjoy forbidden moments and fall in love, and hope the reader actually enjoys this bullsh!t."

My complaints aside, I didn't rate this book too poorly because there were good parts. The Nightingale offers historically accurate details, moments of intrigue, and even some glimpses of true female strength. It simply lacked a consistent, believable tone. The unnaturalness and many nuances constantly jarred me away from the WWII setting. I liked the end most of all, so I suggest finishing the book if you start it.

My recommendation: If you're a big chick-lit fan, this book may be for you. On the other hand, if you prefer literary fiction or just want to read a great war novel, look elsewhere.
Profile Image for oyshik.
219 reviews692 followers
January 14, 2021
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Heartbreaking. Really heartbreaking. This book is absolutely raw and real and heartbreakingly beautiful. And learned a lot about World War 2. If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love, we find out who we want to be; in war, we find out who we are
Loved it...
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews608 followers
December 28, 2019
I'm late to the party...
But here goes:
"The Nightingale" begins with an unnamed elderly woman as the narrator. She is living in Oregon, and the year is 1995. Her son is helping her move...so she is downsizing her possessions. She insists that she must bring her old- large- trunk that she kept
stored in the attic. In the truck contains 'past memories'. There is a WW11 identity card of a young French women, named Juliette Gervaise.

As the story transports to France, 1939, we are wondering about Juliette Gervaise... and the
elderly unnamed woman in 1995 ... and how they are connected to the story, ( we don't find out until towards the end).
We meet the Rosingal sisters: Vianne and Isabelle. ( when war was still in the 'threat-stage').
Their personalities are different. Vianne is 10 years older, married with a child....and lives in the
country. Her husband is sent off to war.
Isabel has just been been kicked out of - yet another- boarding school. She is 18 at the start..
and sent back home to live with her father in Paris.
The sisters father had abandon them years ago ( ages 14 & 4), after their mother had died, by dropping them off, with the caretaker out in the country. So, Isabel knows her dad is not going to be very happy to have her back home.
When the Germans invade Paris, her father sends Isabelle to live with Vianne. As a result of the Nazi occupation, a German soldier is stationed at Vianne's house... And Isabelle ends up going back to Paris because her attitude, defiance, and rebellion, is putting Vivianne and her daughter Sophie in danger.
Isabelle and Vianne both have different perspectives and reactions to the injustices of war. They both are standing for what they believe is right, they both have courage, and both show compassion in different ways. As the story moves on we see the sisters reconcile and/or at least acknowledge their differences.

Through the storytelling -we see how the Nazi's treated France (and what police officers
did to their own French people- especially 'all' Jews. ( The roundups, the hiding, and the deportations). The history is haunting & horrific.

The real emotional impact of "The Nightingale", is towards the end of the book. It's hard not to
'feel' something.....
Yet parts did not feel authentic to me...with scenes and dialogue
being over exaggerated. Parts were predictable, and cliché.

I think I'm the rare bird with this novel.

3.5 rating.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mandy.
320 reviews333 followers
March 25, 2017
I don't even know where to start this review. I am typing it through teary eyes, so I will keep it simple. (Insert tissues here)

My pick for Vianne when this becomes a movie is Naomi Watts or Kate Winslet and for Isabella is Julianne Hough or Amanda Seyfried. Let's see if Hollywood takes my suggestion!

This WW2 novel was so beautifully written. This war was a time of bitter hatred and in this story Kristin Hannah brings to life love, survival, bitterness, strength, and persistence.

Vianne and Isabelle are the most outstanding characters I've ever read. It would be an honor to know them if they were real. I have so much more I could add but I will not because it would take so much of my review.

This is a story that will make you cry and have hope in believing that if you keep stepping forward and never looking back you will make it.

I highly recommend this book. It's absolutely wonderful and a gorgeous story. I will cherish it always as it is now one of my top 3 favorites :)

I'm looking forward to this movie becoming a film. I will be there opening night :) in the front row!!!
Profile Image for Heather.
403 reviews16.9k followers
February 26, 2018
This book wrecked me. Let me say that again, It WRECKED me. I have never cried so hard while reading a book. It was beyond amazing, beyond moving and it’s a story I will never forget.
🇫🇷 📖
I’m sure you’ve heard of this book. It’s been hyped ever since it came out & will amazing reason. I’ve stayed away from it because of the hype & because I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction but I was so glad to be proved wrong on both accounts.
This is a book that will grip you from the minute you start it and will not let you go. It makes you feel for every single character and it shows you the journey of 2 sisters who live in France when WWII begins. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; this book is brutal. It shows you the horrors of war, the scary, horrible things that happen. These 2 sisters went through the worst things possible. 🏙
Suffice to say I loved this book. It’s by far my favorite book of the year ( and if I’m honest I don’t think anything will top it.) and it will be a favorite for life. If your hesitant to pick it up please don’t. It will change your life, it will make you sob, but it will make you hope and make you fall in love.
I probably won’t ever shut up about this book, sorry in advance.
Just kidding I’m not sorry, it’s amazing and everyone should read it.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,991 followers
January 14, 2016
4.5 to 5 stars - This is a very complete book. I hope that makes sense when I say it. I was satisfied with the entire experience.

Emotional and at times nerve-wracking. Love and hope mixed with fear and suffering. Hard choices that are unavoidable, easy choices that come with great risk. This book is a historical fiction roller coaster ride.

Even if you are not into historical fiction or WWII, I think this is worth checking out. Also, I would highly recommend it to those who enjoyed Between Shades of Gray and/or The Book Thief.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
June 2, 2015

I almost didn't read this book and it would have been my loss if I didn't, because I would have missed out on knowing Isabel and Vianne , and the story of their indescribable bravery and volition to save lives in their roles in the French Resistance during WWII. Oh I know this is a work of fiction and these two women are characters in a novel . But I also know as history tells us there were real men and women risking their lives doing the very same things Isabel and Vianne did . A recent article tells how Hannah based the story on real events and real people .

"The subject of “The Nightingale” was an outgrowth of research Hannah had done for her earlier novel “Winter Garden,” when she came across information about a Resistance heroine — the 19-year-old Belgian woman Andrée de Jongh. This brave teenager, inspired in turn by the earlier World War I heroine Edith Cavell, established the Comet Escape Line, a secret network of people who risked their lives to help Allied servicemen escape over the Pyrenees to Spain.

De Jongh’s story inspired Hannah to conduct further research into the French Resistance, finding stories about women who had put themselves and their children in peril by hiding Jewish families. And de Jongh became the model for Isabelle, the younger sister, who, as “the Nightingale,” personally led downed Allied pilots over the mountains to safety." ( Seattle Times February 22, 2015)

The story is all encompassing in many ways , depicting not only the war , the holocaust, the suffering and starvation, the death , the concentration camps , the emotional, physical and mental toll on people and the unrelentingly will of the people in the Resistance . We see the depth of friendship between Vianne and Rachel , a mother's or father's love for their children and the sacrifices they will make to save them with Vianne and Sophia and with Julian and Isabel and we see the raw innocence of first love that becomes a deeper love with Isabel and Gaetan .

I almost didn't read this because I had previously read two other books by Hannah , one of which I loved and one that I didn't , but I could not continue to ignore the 4 and mostly 5 star ratings that so many of my Goodreads friends gave this book . These are friends who are drawn to the same books that I have loved . I'm glad I paid attention to them .

My Goodreads friend Evelyn said that by the end of the book she couldn't breathe. I think that she described the feeling perfectly. I wonder why it is that the books that make me feel like I can't breathe are the ones that I love the most . I think it's because these books evoke the feelings that make us human. In this case it is a story that begs us to remember what happened. I couldn't recommend it more .
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews34 followers
August 20, 2021
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale is a historical fiction novel, written by Kristin Hannah and published in 2015.

It tells the story of two sisters, just coming of age in France on the eve of World War II, and their struggle to survive and resist the German occupation of France.

It was inspired by the story of a Belgian woman, Andrée de Jongh, who helped downed Allied pilots to escape Nazi territory.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و ششم ماه اکتبر سال 2016میلادی

عنوان: بلبل: رمان تاریخی؛ نویسنده: کریستین هانا؛ مترجم: مژگان احمدخان؛ نازنین عباسی؛ تهران، نشر علم، 1394؛ در 506ص؛ شابک9789642247943؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

عنوان: بلبل: رمان تاریخی؛ نویسنده: کریستین هانا؛ مترجم: آفاق زرگریان؛ تهران، کتابسرای تندیس، 1394؛ در 711ص؛ شابک9786001821899؛

عنوان: بلبل: رمان تاریخی؛ نویسنده: کریستین هانا؛ مترجم: میثم امامی؛ ذهن آویز، 1398؛ در 740ص؛ چاپ سوم 1399؛ شابک9786001182501؛

ماجراهای زندگی دو خواهر جوان و شجاع: «ایزابل» و «ویان»، و سختی‌های جنگ، و آنچه که انسان‌ها در برابر شرایط باورنکردنی زندگی، از خود نشان می‌دهند: «انتخاب‌هایی بدون حقِ انتخاب»؛ دخترى جوان، مغرور، متهور و بى کله! کسى که وارد دسته ى مقاومت مردمى «فرانسه» شد، و براى آزادى «فرانسه»، تا پاى جان جنگید، دشوارترین و ترسناکترین کارها را بردوش گرفت، عشقش را، امنیتش را و زندگیش را نادیده گرفت، تا نامش در کنار پایداری «فرانسه» جاویدان بماند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 10/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 28/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
October 6, 2018
its quite silly how i almost always go into a historical fiction book thinking, “why am i reading this? history is sooo boring.”

but then i read books like this. books that remind me there are beautiful, heartbreaking, and important stories that make me a better person for reading them.

and its difficult to write a review about story set during such a dark period in time, but this book truly is a must read for everyone. trust me. this is the kind of story that will stay with you long after you have read the final page.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Warda.
1,209 reviews19.7k followers
February 19, 2019
Crying in the library.

This book is an ode to women.
Our spirits.

“He loves a version of me that is incomplete. I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I'd like to be known.”

We all know suffering and have experienced different degrees of it. But, I don’t think there’s any suffering that compares to the suffering of war.
And this is not to downplay other painful and, possibly, equally horrendous experiences. But as I’m looking into this book as a reader, I came to know of a pain that would utterly destroy me if I was in this situation, though war shapes you in a way that’s never predictable.

Kristin Hannah captured this story so well, painted it’s history so visibly in my head and heart, that it feels alive. I’m blown away.

I can't wait for the movie adaptation.

Buddy-reading one of my favs people that I've met on here.
You ready to sob? :D
Profile Image for Natalie.
567 reviews3,196 followers
June 5, 2020
“My nightingale, I got you home.”

This review contains *spoilers*.

I honestly didn't expect to like The Nightingale as much as I did.
The premise of the book intrigued me (I've been really into historical fiction lately).
This story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during World War II and their hardships trying to survive.
My heart broke for each sister as I read their stories full of loss and pain. And I loved the shifting point-of-view that allowed me to see inside each character's head.

But one of the best things about the story for me was Isabelle. I loved her as a main character and her character development was phenomenal.
She started out as a impetuous 18 year old, but in order to survive the war, she turned into someone tough and driven and so strong.

“She let fear give her a little shake and she almost gave in to it. Then she thought about the swastikas that flew from the Eiffel Tower and Vianne living with the enemy and Antoine lost in some prisoner of war camp. And Edith Cavell. Certainly she had been afraid sometimes, too; Isabelle would not let fear stand in her way.”

Reading from Vianne’s point of view was just as nerve-wracking as reading from Isabelle’s. Herr Captain Beck made me really uncomfortable — whenever he helped Vianne and her daughter, I felt exactly as torn as she felt.

Now I’m starting to get really emotional thinking about Vianne, especially thinking about her friendship with Rachel. Their friendship is so rich and real and it made Rachel’s departure that more emotional for me. I had actual tears running down my face when she helped Rachel and her children escape. Vianne’s character growth was outstanding and it definitely surprised me.

“I’ll write if I can,” Rachel said.
Vianne’s throat tightened. Even if the best happened, she might not hear from her friend for years. Or ever. In this new world, there was no certain way to keep in touch with those you loved.”


This book definitely astonished me. It showed me kindness when I least expected it (Eduardo and Madame Babineau) and it showed me the losses and fears of so many people and their bravery trying to live through extremely difficult times.
The story is moving and heartbreaking and the characters interesting and complex. What do I possibly read after this?

“He smiled. “You have a habit of saying whatever is on your mind, don’t you, Isabelle?”
“Always. Why did you leave me?”
He touched her face with a gentleness that made her want to cry; it felt like a good-bye, that touch, and she knew good-bye. “I wanted to forget you.”

Isabelle and Gaëtan made me really emotional. I’m glad we got to see him again after he left her. Their reunion made me smile after feeling sad for so long because of the events in this book. They are so good together.
But being happy didn't last long because I found out that the older woman from 1995 wasn’t Isabelle she was Vianne— Isabella had died right in Gaëtan's arms.

(I found this song to be really fitting while reading.)

*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying The Nightingale, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!*

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,424 reviews35.2k followers
February 23, 2021
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

It's Paris 1939 and the Germans occupy parts of France. It is a brutal time. A horrible time. A sad time. A time of loss. It is also a time when ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”

Yes, what can be done? Many books on war focus on the part that men play, the battles, the war strategies. This book focuses on the wives, the Mothers, the Daughters, the women left behind and the struggles they face. The main characters in this book are two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne is a married Mother is who left behind to care for her daughter when her husband goes off to war. Isabelle is a rebelious 18 year old seeking to find purpose in life. They are polar opposites of each other. Years and distance separate them but both in their own way fight to stay alive, to keep others alive and to be free.

Vianne is forced to take a German Commander into her home for lodging as her husband is being kept in a Nazi prison. Isablee, meets a young partisan who believes that the French people can wage war against the Nazi's from within France. This book shows us how the Nazis took over France and ruled using fear and manipulation. How they turned neighbor against neighbor.

Both female characters in this book are sympathetic. Both take huge risks to protect and save the lives of ed others. This is a Woman's war and both endear the unthinkable, both found their own way of fighting back against evil. Both women's point of view are told in this novel. Time travels back and forth between the present day and the past. This novel has heart and soul. It has depth. It has well developed characters who make us proud, who break our hearts and who make us cry. I read the final chapters through tears. This book will break your heart but isn't that what war does? Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. In this book, the women are the heroes.

Sad? Yes, this book is sad. But it also shows triumph of the human spirit. It shows us that no matter what, good can and will exist in the world. In the end Good will triumph over evil but at a cost. This book is also beautifully written, heartfelt, moving, heartbreaking, and informative.

Highly recommend.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
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