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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

February 11, 2019

Two sisters. 1939. Nazi-occupied France.

Vianne is twenty-eight and cautious. Her husband has left to fight, and when a Nazi requisitions her home she must make one impossible choice after another to keep her daughter safe. Isabelle is eighteen and rebellious. She is appalled by France’s surrender, and when her lover betrays her she joins the Resistance and risks her life time and time again to save others. As the war escalates around them, each sister embarks on her own journey of love, hope, and survival in Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

Hannah did an amazing job crafting these two perspectives with opposite personalities. Vianne is always careful, which is reflected in all of her thoughts and actions, and Isabelle is more courageous, which is shown in all of hers. I found this effective because I could see two different sides of the story—this allowed me to gain a wider view of the plot.

This novel alternates between the perspectives of the two sisters every couple of pages, so the reader has time to settle into each narrative, but is also kept updated on each sister’s current situation. Hannah always switches perspective at critical moments in the characters’ lives, which makes the reader want to read on to find out what happens.

The diction that Hannah uses has strong connotations and sucks the reader into each scene, by making it easy to picture Nazi-occupied France through her vivid details. Another effective aspect of the book is the strong connection Hannah creates between the characters and the reader through the sisters’ carefully crafted, realistic personalities. This makes this book emotionally powerful—every feeling the sisters portray is echoed in the audience’s reaction.

Although The Nightingale is a novel, it is well researched and relates to real-world people, places, and events, which made it very plausible—I could prove everything in the setting and quite a bit of the plot, which left the protagonists as the only truly fictional element. As someone who reads partly to gain knowledge of history, this added to my reading experience. Another aspect of this book that I found effective was that Hannah managed to squeeze in themes about love, war, survival, and the human spirit, to name a few, which makes this book accessible and interesting for everyone.

The Nightingale was such a successful title that it will be coming out shortly as a movie, and although I am excited to see it, I just hope it will capture the features of Hannah’s incredible story. 

I would rate this book a definite ten out of ten for its incredible characters and captivating plot, and I would recommend it to everyone twelve or older. So go get a copy and prepare yourself for an amazing read that makes you wonder: What would you do if you were in Isabelle or Vianne’s situation?


St. Martin’s Press, 438 Pages          

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