Laura's Reviews > The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
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it was ok

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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 17, 2015 – Finished Reading
January 23, 2015 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-50 of 87 (87 new)


Irene Peters I totally agree with you. This book was ok but predictable. The author shouldn't attempt historical stories.


Mollie Matusick I agree as well. And speaking of predictable, of course the maybe-has-a-shred-of-decency-Nazi is handsome, and both heroines and Sophie are beautiful.


Theresa I totally agree. There are so many true 5 star books in the genre. This one doesn't meet those standards. It was also about 100 pages too long.


message 4: by Dan (new)

Dan Smith I find people who just toss off visceral writing about unimaginable human experiences to be shallow and immature. I look forward to never sharing a meaningful conversation with you 3 children.


Romy Dan Smith...Oh you delightful curmudgeon. I have zero issue with a difference of opinion. But I take enormous offense to any reader who blasts others, believing themselves superior to others. You seem erudite, educated, well-rounded. Prove my assessment right with civility and amiable discourse.


message 6: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay I began this novel with great expectations. So far, I am under-whelmed.


message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue While you and I don't agree on this particular book, Laura, I want to thank you for providing two more books to look into. I love thoughtful recommendations.


Stacia You took the words right out of my keyboard.


Barbara I have only read to page 100 and I'm already disappointed. So pleased to know that I am not the only one who feels that this book isn't/hasn't lived up to its hype. It's almost trite ; the depth of characters, to this point, is weak; the story line is similar to others I have read; and, the writing is, for me, too simplistic. Perhaps it's because I have read a number of WWII, fiction and non-fiction books and this one does pale in comparison to those.


Patricia I totally agree! Earnest effort, but rather disappointing and predictable . . .


message 11: by Sage (last edited May 19, 2015 07:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sage I agree, an excellent story about the struggles of the women left behind in a German occupied country that was weighed down with repetitive issues of their childhood.

Update: two books about the German occupation of France that I highly recommend are All The Light We Can Not See (the best book I've read this year) and Lisette's List. And, of course, The Book Thief, which deals with German civilians and their struggles during WWII...something we seldom think about.


Patricia Yes! Lots of "loose ends" here!


Charlene I wasn't convinced of the historical liklihood of some of events described in book. Would recommend A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell and Lisette's List much above Nightingale.


Candy Barron Penicillin was a new antibiotic used by the Allies for their wounded soldiers during World War II. It wasn't available to the Germans, yet.


message 15: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Candy: "Penicillin was a new antibiotic used by the Allies for their wounded soldiers during World War II. It wasn't available to the Germans, yet."

Good point. I wondered about this myself. I find this error in many historical novels written about the first half of the 20th century. Groan: I have even seen it mentioned as being in use during the 19th century. No time travel involved either.


message 16: by Sage (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sage I think the error regarding penicillin use is because it was discovered in 1928, but not used on humans until 1941.


message 17: by Rebecca (new) - added it

Rebecca Kilpatrick I agree with everything that others have written. I would recommend "All the Light We Cannot See", which blew me away and which received the Pulitzer Prize. It was beautifully done.


message 18: by Rebecca (new) - added it

Rebecca Kilpatrick I agree with everything that others have written. I would recommend "All the Light We Cannot See", which blew me away and which received the Pulitzer Prize. It was beautifully done.


message 19: by Mim (new)

Mim Holmes I was glad to see a less than stellar review here. I would rate the book as "meh." I don't know..just too formulaic, maybe?


message 20: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay I am amazed at the 5 star reviews! Here are three recent novels set in 1930s-1940s Europe that in my opinion are much better.

Warsaw Anagrams and Seventh Gate by Richard Zimler
The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin


message 21: by Mim (new)

Mim Holmes Thank you, Kay. Always like to get good book suggestions.


message 22: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Thank you Mim. I like your "meh" rating! I may have to steal that.


Peggy I agree. I am only on chapter 11 but so far find the writing only okay. Isabelle is the worst cliche of all the cliched characters in the book. Glad I got this on sale so don't feel too robbed.


Jacque Thank you, everyone for the book recommendations. I am really looking froward to reading them. After reading so many lousy by comparison novels this year, I enjoyed this one (that I happened upon) enough to give it a 4 star. However, I am not as cognizant of historical details that could flaw a story, and again, I am coming from a recent saturation of mediocrity.


message 25: by Sage (last edited Jun 07, 2015 05:33AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sage It wasn't the historic detail that faulted this book for me and I did find the basic story very good...however, it was the inability to connect to either of the main characters that was disappointing...Vianne too naïve and passive, and Isabelle overly obstinate. I esp. found Isabelle's inability to learn from her experiences unrealistic...to the point that after over 5 years of war she completely disregarded the safety of Vianne and Sophie and not only put them in danger but caused them to endure needless suffering. This, along with the author's repetitive emphasis and time spent on sibling rivalry, as with The Winter Garden, became redundant and flawed an otherwise excellent story.


message 26: by CVG (new) - rated it 2 stars

CVG I was relieved to learn I am not alone in not being enthralled with this book. After all, I was 162nd on the wait list at the library. I was so unimpressed after the first 50 pages that I browsed forward to see if something would capture my interest. Found it more of a "romance novel" set in what could have been an intensely dramatic setting. Just not impressed.


Claudiapiepenburg Very well said. I felt the same way when I read this book. I was very disappointed, and wished that I had been re-reading "Life After Life" or Atkinson's latest "A God in Ruins". Atkinson is a phenomenal writer, this is the first novel I've read by Hannah, my take on her is that she's good at writing chick-lit and disguising it, or trying to, as monumental historical fiction. It's not.


message 28: by Rene (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rene I listened to the Audiobook and the narrator really brought the story alive. She was spot on with the characters' voices. I loved the book!


message 29: by John (new) - rated it 2 stars

John Threadgill I really don't understand the hype with this book. I thought it was predictable and clichéd. Gushy woman's romance novel set it a French WW2 setting. Like you say some annoying historical inaccuracies. **yawn**


Harriet Thank you for reassuring me that I am not insane. I am dragging myself through this book. I almost feel that Ms Hannah has read other WWII stories and is creating hers from them rather than from research into the period.

When she wrote about the Arc "DU" Triomphe, I was finished. I am disappointed by the great reviews which led me to buy The Nightengale and wonder of any of the reviewers had read books of this genre before. I also think this book should be classified as a "romance " novel....formulaic, predictable, and not my choice to read. Thanks for letting me vent


message 31: by Pat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pat St. Thanks for echoing my early perspective; what's all the hype about this book? I have enjoyed other Hannah novels, but this one is underwhelming so far (I'm just at the halfway mark trying to decide whether to continue).


message 32: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan I listened to The Nightingale on audio and the reader was fantastic! Laura, I also read Life After Life and thought it was good but not great. I also read All the Light We Cannot See after I read the Nightingale and thought it was also good, but not great. Interesting what appeals to one person doesn't to another. Makes the discussions more interesting.


message 33: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Jan: I listened to the audiobook. I found the narration distracting. The same character at times sounded French, at others like an American mid westerner.


message 34: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Rene wrote: "I listened to the Audiobook and the narrator really brought the story alive. She was spot on with the characters' voices. I loved the book!"

Rene,I loved the audio of this book, too. Fantastic reader.


message 35: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Kay wrote: "Jan: I listened to the audiobook. I found the narration distracting. The same character at times sounded French, at others like an American mid westerner."

Kay,For me, I would have to say that the reader deserves a 10. Loved her! Funny how some things resonate with one person but not another. Makes our discussions more interesting :)


message 36: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Jan: "Kay,For me, I would have to say that the reader deserves a 10. Loved her! Funny how some things resonate with one person but not another. Makes our discussions more interesting :)"

Definitely! :)


message 37: by Emily (new) - rated it 1 star

Emily Yes!! I just read Gillham's "City of Women" just before reading "The Nightingale." It is far, far better!!


message 38: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan I will have to add City of women to my list.


message 39: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan I agree with your review and have nothing further to add except to say I'm glad I'm not the only one to not rate this novel a 4 or 5.


message 40: by Sharon (new) - added it

Sharon I couldn't agree more, after 60 pages I felt this was a watered down story of another I had read before.


Patti Wow...so happy to find common views here. I found the writing repetitive and the timing of the sisters ages threw me. What 19 year old remembers vivid details of her mother who died when she was 4? I can suspend my disbelief for some things but not this. It seemed very formulaic. There were far too many comparisons to punctuation (commas, question marks). I never warmed to either sister as I found them annoyingly stereotypical (the goody-two-shoes vs. the rebel) I love WW2 historical fiction but this failed to impress


Rachel Was anyone else totally put off by the part where Isabelle survived the concentration camp, lived another couple months but then died in her lovers arms as soon as he returned to find her. Melodrama!!!!


message 43: by Judy (new)

Judy I agree with your 2 star rating. This book was "okay". I saw nothing wrong about the two sisters not meshing (there was a 10 year age gap, an early marriage and child with the older sister) and yet it seemed to be a big crime. I found the book to be repetitive (how many times must I hear that Isabelle is impetuous or unloved?) and the story is contrived (so many examples of conveniently placed people so the author could rehash events of WWII). I would not recommend this novel to anyone despite that it is supposed to be a rare celebration about the roles women played in resisting the Nazis.


Tonya Half way through and I don't know if I can continue...bored stiff.


Julia Rachel yes that part actually had me groaning out loud! Of course she died in arms of the man she loved the minute they reunited. Because that's how life works.


message 46: by Sage (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sage Julia wrote: "Rachel yes that part actually had me groaning out loud! Of course she died in arms of the man she loved the minute they reunited. Because that's how life works."

Not always...


message 47: by John (new) - rated it 2 stars

John Threadgill Oh .. I thought Julia was being sarcastic. :-o


Maria I so agree. Suite Francaise and Resistance by Agnes Humbert were better written and the characters had much more depth.


message 49: by Patti (new) - rated it 1 star

Patti Brown I gave it one star. Isabelle was too stupid to be believable.


message 50: by Sage (last edited Sep 15, 2015 03:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sage Patti wrote: "I gave it one star. Isabelle was too stupid to be believable."

LOL...my feelings exactly. Isabelle ruined the story for me right from the beginning when she was a refugee running from the Germans wearing a polka dot dress and heels...her only concern was herself, even escorting the British soldiers across the mountains I felt she was doing it more for her own recognition then for them.


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