The Nightingale – by Kristin Hannah – independent book review – Historical Fiction (France)

A New York Times best-selling novel with a page-turning plot about the horrors of living in occupied France during World War II. Awarded four stars on Goodreads. NOTE: Amazon lists more than 37,000 reviews, 86% of which award five-stars. So, this is one you shouldn’t miss.

nightingaleTHE NIGHTINGALE tells the story of two sisters, their strained family relationships and the different ways each deals with the deprivations and brutality of Nazi occupation. One sister narrates the book, as an old woman looking back, but you don’t know until the very end which sister it is.

Vianne, married with a young daughter when the war breaks out, lives on a family farm deep in the French countryside. After her husband leaves for the front, she is left with sole responsibility for keeping her child and herself alive — despite starving refugees, widespread shortages, occupying Nazi soldiers billeting in local homes, and the escalating persecution of local French Jews — one of whom is her best friend.

Isabelle, Vianne’s younger sister, is a lifelong rules-breaker with a history of being kicked out of multiple schools. Single, she not-so-surprisingly chooses to join the French Resistance — at great danger to herself and family.

By following these two women throughout World War II, readers come to appreciate the ever-shifting morality of war, when people can no longer tell which neighbors are collaborating with the enemy. We meet good Nazis and bad, understand the value of forged identities, learn about the randomness of Gestapo torture and overnight raids, and ultimately watch what happens to those who end up in concentration camps.

After reading this novel, I feel I have a better understanding of what it was actually like to live in an occupied territory during the war. But I still had some issues with Hannah’s writing. She doesn’t seem to trust the reader’s ability to fully understand what is happening and I found some things included in text that were completely self-evident.

Kristin Hannah (courtesy of

Sort of like beating a dead horse. Also, a few phrases, like “grueling pace” seem overused. But I still predict the suspenseful plot will keep you reading.

Interested in Kristin Hannah? More from the author’s Website.

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