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Audie Award, Fiction, 2016
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
I have mixed feelings about this intense work of fiction. This is probably because I have read several books of nonfiction recently about France during WWII and the Vichy Regime. Some of the information presented in this book contradicts the actual history of the time. Additionally, if you know Paris well you will balk at the street locations and distances between places mentioned in the story. I found myself torn about pushing on with the book because of these problems. In the end, I allowed the excellent storytelling to override my concerns and treated the book as a compelling work of fiction.
Polly Stone's narration was really good. Her timing and accents added to the experience of listening. For me, she was a positive, but do listen to the sample because others disagree.
Be forewarned that this story is not for the faint of heart. Women and children in peril, torture, extreme violence and the horrors of war are all strong themes. Hannah's writing captured the emotions and fears of women in war forced to make difficult and impossible decisions. A harrowing, heartbreaking, and terrifying listening experience. If actual historic facts matter to you or if you are disturbed by violence I would proceed with caution.
175 of 191 people found this review helpful
There have been many books written about WWII and I have read many of them. For that reason I almost passed up this gem. It's a powerful, thought-provoking look at this horrible time in history from the very intimate perspective of a woman, wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. It's about impossible choices, strength of the human spirit, endurance beyond imagining and hope. A stark reminder that not only men, but also women, were heroes in that war.
It's a long book, but I never felt it to drag. The narration was very well done. And I found myself wanting to stop along the way to reflect on situations and decisions characters had made and ask myself, "What would you have done?" There are many moral dilemmas in this book, none of which are easy. How far would you go to protect your child?
It was well worth the credit. The best book I've listened to in the past twelve months.
174 of 193 people found this review helpful
Full time doctoral studies and full time work leaves no time for reading. I bought this book on Audible and it would keep me company on my hour commute to and from work. The story line is great-I can identify with Isabel, with her speak before thinking attitude.
I found myself laughing, crying, dropping my jaw in shock and disgust and didn't want to stop listening. I wish the book didn't end.
I highly recommend this book on Audible. The different character voices and current pronunciation of French words was better than I could have attempted!
You won't regret it.
127 of 144 people found this review helpful
After reading the publisher's summary in Audible's *Featured Pre-Orders,* I was drawn to The Nightingale -- I have an obsession with the history of early twentieth century France, particularly the Inter War period and the few years after WWII. Unfamiliar with Hannah's body of work, I read that her oeuvre was *female fiction,* repeatedly compared to other authors I have chosen not to read. That translated to concern that I would be disappointed with the author, and by a book that inaccurately used history to piggy back on a saccharine love story. Not what I was looking for.
It was this line from the Kirkus Review that perfectly addressed my worries and sold me on this book: "Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II." Hannah's skillful writing, and forceful story telling ability quickly became apparent and convinced me The Nightingale was a perfect choice.
As the story begins, the reader knows only that the novel is about two disparate sisters during the WWII Nazi occupation of France. From one of those sisters, now placed in a nursing home in Oregon, USA, the tale of survival is unraveled, but which surviving sister narrates the history remains unknown until the novel's end...and I hung onto the book until that ending and wished the story could've gone on.
Sisters Vianne and Isabelle are polar opposites, even in their individual strengths: Vianne is compassionate with the strengths we know as *a mother's-love,* wise and thoughtful; while the younger Isabelle is defiant, fearless, and recklessly brave -- opposites, but equally formidable. Each of their paths are harrowing and absorbing. On the home-front, Vianne must protect her daughter while fighting starvation, freezing winters, and the degradation from German soldiers. In silent horror, she watches as her friends and neighbors are branded with the Jewish star, then gathered into wagons and trains, often leaving infants behind alone. Even a rumor started from jealousy, or a false accusation can be deathly under the brutal Gestapo's presence. Young and compulsive, Isabelle defies the occupation openly until an event brings soldiers too close to their home. She realizes that for the protection of Vianne and her daughter, she must flee. She joins the Resistance and becomes a guide secretly transporting injured Allied airmen over the Pyrenees into Spain. [Isabelle's surname, Rossignol, is the French word for nightingale.]
Having read my share of French history, I was impressed with the historical accuracy of the story (though this was in part a love story that added little more than some quasi-romance). Many of the events were echoes of history books I've read and it was gratifying to see that Hannah did not treat the civilians as *landscape* and marginalize those poor souls caught in the crossfire of war. This was a riveting story, excellently told and narrated well (I will leave the accuracy of the French accent to those more knowledgeable than my HS French; it did not impede the story for me). It is worth mentioning that though this is fiction, Hannah said her idea for the story was ignited by a real incident she read about...and there are too many real incidents out there, both historical and current.
**It is estimated that 350,00 French civilians died during the German occupation, not from bombs or fighting, but from: crimes against humanity, famine, disease and "military acting out." This war preceded Article 27 of the Geneva Convention; females were considered *carnal booty.* Since 1949 Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits wartime rape and enforced prostitution. In a speech to the United nations Security Council in 2008, Retired Major General Patrick Cammart stated,
“It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.” Sadly, we haven't made much progress.
205 of 248 people found this review helpful
This book was not what I was expecting. For some reason I thought this was going to be a romance novel, boy was I wrong! Even though I was wrong about what this book was about, it was an amazing and beautiful novel! I'm grateful I got the experience of this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction.
35 of 42 people found this review helpful
This is a great novel. It does everything a novel is supposed to and leaves you drained at the end. In all three criteria Audible asks for, it is easily five star. Do yourself a favor and don't miss this one. Just a note about Polly Stone the narrator. She is very, very good and maintains a level that matches the quality of the novel. Her work helped make this such a wonderful experience.
69 of 85 people found this review helpful
Loved the story and the narrator! This helped me understand what so many people went through during WWI ad WWII.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Unpredictable plot twist undisclosed until the not-bitter end. Intriguing, well researched story filled with details for any historian but lined with enough emotion and strong characters to stick with it as long as it lasts.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This is a tough book to review. It would be easy to include a spoiler and that's not fair to other readers. So, I'll stay clear of that and do the best I can.
This is the first Kristin Hannah book for me and I didn't really know what to expect. With all the advance press, I was hoping for something equal to, say, "The Goldfinch" for this year's list of greats. Yes, it's good - but it's not going to make that list for me.
Though there's never a shortage of WWII books in fiction, there have never been enough books about the huge contribution women made to the war. I'm always pleased when one comes along that I think will capture new readers. I don't think this book comes close to "Code Name Verity" in quality, but there's no question it will generate great word-of-mouth and be a book club favorite.
As to the book itself, I wish I could rate it in two halves. The first half for me was ho-hum. Let's be generous and call it good. It took me a very long time to get into it. The narrator didn't help much. She's adequate, but really doesn't enhance the experience in any way. For quite a while I wondered if I could endure but pushed on anyway. I'm glad I did. Things changed.
About at half time, the storyline thickened and it became a compelling listen. All the set up on the characters paid off. Closer to the end when the author brings the whole thing around, she really ties it up beautifully. I'd even call it great.
Is it "Winds of War" caliber? Nope. But that book will never get a new flock of readers and social media buzz where this one just might. If it helps a new generation know what women did during the war, it will have done its job.
99 of 125 people found this review helpful
This was an extremely well-written story. The characters seem real and evoked emotional highs and lows for the reader. I highly recommend this book for any reader and plan to have my teenage daughter sit down and read this book with me.
This is now my favorite book and I have many many to compare! Excellent writing and beautiful reading!
50 of 64 people found this review helpful