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Book Review: The Nightingale

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julia

If you know anything about books, I'm sure that you've heard of this one, Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. It was popular on bookstagram around the time of its release and is actually the author's favorite book that she has written. It's so good that there's even going to be a movie adaptation that will be released a few days shy of the book's four-year anniversary. (So it's coming out in 2019. A bit of a wait; drats.) BUT, that does not mean that you should hold off reading this amazing book. Because you shouldn't. You should read it right now. Do you need some more reasons?

The Nightingale tells the story of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France. After a difficult childhood and years of healing and trying to forget, Vianne has to watch as her happy life is uprooted. Her husband leaves to fight in the war. The Nazis invade France and then even her own home, one billeting at her house. A mother at heart, she does what she can to protect her daughter, torn and aching over the decisions she has to make. Her younger sister, Isabelle, is described as reckless by many, and is angry about the past and, as time goes on, the actions of the Nazis. Eventually, despite what others might say, she joins the dangerous work of the resistance.

In the end, the book is about two sisters and their strikingly different yet similar stories, as they try to survive and navigate the world of war-torn France, exploring their difficult past, themselves, and one another.

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.
The Nightingale description
(To read the official synopsis, or description, of the book on The Nightingale website, click here.)

That's one of the things I like about Kristin Hannah's books*  the complicated feelings and connections between the characters. Each character thinks and acts and feels differently and has different sides to the story, and these differences make each character unique and separate from each other. In addition, because of this, the book isn't completely written based on the events of the book. It's also the detailed and overlapping connections and relationships between the characters that lead the story on, and I love that. After all, the characters are the human part of the book; they're what makes the events believable, no matter how impossible-seeming or far-fetched. And the fact that Hannah is able to do this so well is one thing that makes her books so amazing, especially this one, where her characters full of life and feelings are forced to make difficult, inhuman decisions.
*Note: I have only read one other book by her, but I still have seen similarities. 

I loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. She has captured a particular slice of French life during World War II with wonderful details and drama. But what I loved most was the relationship between two sisters and Hannah’s exploration of what we do in moments of great challenge.
Lisa See, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Another amazing thing about Kristin Hannah is her attention to detail. Everything feels so real with her vivid and beautiful descriptions of her characters and their surroundings. And what's even more amazing is the importance of each detail; the story or the piece of information that's behind each one. A description of a character's house does not only help you to picture the scene, but it also tells you about their wealth (or lack thereof), personality, and daily life.

Now, I have told you a lot of reasons why Kristin Hannah is a good writer in general, but what makes this book so special? One of the easiest answers to that question is the attention the book brings to women's efforts to the war. 

What else? It's heartbreakingly real. Your heart will quite literally ache after reading this book. I even caught myself crying at some points, something I don't often do.

My wife came home as I was on the final few pages…she wondered why I was sobbing.  What a read. She immediately took it from me. Powerful and interesting on many levels as only great historical fiction can be.
— David K. Cully, EVP, Baker & Taylor

In the end, Kristin Hannah's novel is wonderful on so many levels, from each beautifully-written chapter to each amazing character. Even if you're not a fan of historical fiction or have some sort of bias against this book, it isn't a book that can be ignored, and definitely is a book anyone can and will enjoy.


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