The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Fair warning: Some spoilers ahead – but a callout before they’re given.
Courtney’s take on the book: I absolutely loved The Nightingale. What an engaging read! I can totally understand why it has so many positive reviews. I’m always looking for a good relationship/romantic read and this one hit the mark. Working from the vantage point of two sisters trying to survive World War II, the author pieced together a story of diametrically opposed responses to war. I most closely related to the older sister, Vianne. As a mother, I completely understood her motives and actions as she tried to protect her children during a time of starvation, desperation, and brutality. I asked myself several times what I would have done in similar circumstances and in each instance, I would have mirrored Vianne’s choices. In the end, Vianne’s contribution to the resistance may not have been as flashy as her younger sister, Isabelle’s, but her quiet resistance saved multiple children and the generations that followed. In contrast, Isabelle chose a riskier path of resistance by more openly defying the Nazi occupation. Her actions saved many lives and gained her much notoriety. But at what cost? (SPOILER) Ultimately, she lost her life and her love. Both women did admirable things but I could understand and relate to the choices Vianne made. They seemed real and relatable to me and as a result I was drawn into the story and moved by it.
Courtney’s Ranking (out of 10): 10!!!
When we first started, I’m not going to lie, I was a little uncertain if I would like this book. Simply because that for me, sometimes wartime books seem to blend together, the plot becoming a dismal survival plot that is hard to get through. But I was pleasantly surprised to read this because yes, there were sad things and hard circumstances to read through, but ultimately it was compelling, full of just as much courage and hope as it was sadness and darkness. Especially interesting to me was how the book elegantly took the role of gender in war, parenting, and overall society head on. Isabelle is told over and over again she cannot contribute to war, but she finds a way anyway. It was powerful for me to see how she found her way in, not by complaining and protesting her position, but rather to just keep pushing and fighting until the others accepted her as a vital person to include. I’m not arguing that protesting and bringing voice to an issue isn’t important, but for me, giving up and complaining can be the easier path than continuing to push until you’re let in. Vianne’s role as well on the surface appeared to be resigning to motherhood, but as she says: “men tell stories…women get on with it.” She wasn’t just resigned to her household, she had really found another way to contribute and simply got on with it, instead of worrying about her story in the grand scheme of things. Overall, I thought it was a good story, but an even better way to show how women can be empowered, no matter what their circumstance or specific life choices they made.
Kylee’s Ranking: 8