Summary and book reviews of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 592 pages

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2015 BookBrowse Fiction Award

Vivid and exquisite in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with great monstrosities, but also great humanity and strength, a novel that will have readers talking long after they turn the last page.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic novel of love and war, spanning from the 1940s to the present day, and the secret lives of those who live in a small French town.

Viann and Isabelle have always been close despite their differences. Younger, bolder sister Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann lives a quiet and content life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When World War II strikes and Antoine is sent off to fight, Viann and Isabelle's father sends Isabelle to help her older sister cope. As the war progresses, it's not only the sisters' relationship that is tested, but also their strength and their individual senses of right and wrong. With life as they know it changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Vivid and exquisite in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with great monstrosities, but also great humanity and strength, Kristin Hannah's novel will provoke thought and discussion that will have readers talking long after they turn the last page.

ONE
April 9, 1995
The Oregon Coast

If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. Today's young people want to know everything about everyone. They think talking about a problem will solve it. I come from a quieter generation. We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.

Lately, though, I find myself thinking about the war and my past, about the people I lost.

Lost.

It makes it sound as if I misplaced my loved ones; perhaps I left them where they don't belong and then turned away, too confused to retrace my steps.

They are not lost. Nor are they in a better place. They are gone. As I approach the end of my years, I know that grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.

I have aged in the months since my husband's death and my diagnosis. My skin has the crinkled appearance of wax paper that someone has tried to flatten and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Nightingale opens with an intriguing statement that lays out one of the major themes of the book: "If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are." What do you think the narrator means by this? Is love the ideal and war the reality? How does war change the way these characters love? How does love influence their actions in the war? On a personal level, has love affected your life choices? Have those choices affected who and how you love?

  2. Take a moment to talk about the narrative structure of The Nightingale . Why do you think Kristin Hannah chose to keep the narrator's identity a secret in the beginning and end of the novel? Were you surprised...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2015

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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Kristin Hannah has reached a new level with this strong and enduring cast of characters and themes. I would challenge anyone to read The Nightingale and not feel deeply moved by its message. I felt proud of these women, struggling to survive in times of war and wondered "what would I do" to save my family, my freedoms and all that I hold dear? Beyond that question looms another: "Do I have that deep core of bravery so desperately needed in the darkest of hours?" Relevant today and always this story will stay with me a long time. It has my strongest recommendation.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (897 words).

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Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness, Marilyn Dahl

I read The Nightingale in one sitting, completely transported to wartime France, completely forgetting where I was. A historical novel—built on Kristin Hannah's proven skill with story, complex and enduring family ties, and passion—one that will captivate readers.

Library Journal

Readers who enjoy stories with ethical dilemmas and character-driven narratives will enjoy this novel full of emotion and heart.

Kirkus

Hannah's proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale. Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Author Blurb Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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 about the novel was the relationship between the two sisters and Hannah's exploration of what we do in moments of great challenge. Do we rise to the occasion or fail? Are we heroes or cowards? Are we loyal to the people we love most or do we betray them? Hannah explores these questions with probing finesse and great heart.

Author Blurb Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, Director of the University of Miami Holocaust Teacher Institute
I found The Nightingale absolutely riveting! I started reading it one night after supper with every intention of reading just a few chapters for that evening and could not put it down. Not only is it an emotionally inspiring story with well-drawn characters whom you grow to care about deeply, but it is also historically informative … Read this book. It will keep you guessing throughout about the two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, both brave young women who did what they thought was the right thing to do in the most of difficult circumstances. They had—in the words of Lawrence Langer the WW2 historian scholar—too often to make 'choiceless choices.'

Author Blurb Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
A beautifully written and richly evocative examination of life, love, and the ravages of war, and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations—not to mention the terrible and mounting toll of keeping secrets. This powerhouse of a story is equally packed with action and emotion, and is sure to be another major hit.

Author Blurb Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
In this epic novel, set in France in World War II, two sisters who live in a small village find themselves estranged when they disagree about the imminent threat of occupation. Separated by principles and temperament, each must find her own way forward as she faces moral questions and life-or-death choices. Haunting, action-packed, and compelling.

Reader Reviews

Susan Amon

Excellent
I debated reading this book as I feared it would be sad and while it had sadness, the hope and strength of the sisters prevailed and it was an excellent read.

gloria kessinger

Good Screams for "Last Scream"
Very seldom have I read a book that I couldn"t put down, but "Last Scream" was it! This book is so in-depth, and so engrossing it totally draws you into the story. There is a killer stalking women who have already suffered abuse in...   Read More

gloria kessinger

Eye-Opener to "Nightscream"
OMG, Morgan Hannah McDonald has done it again with "Nigthtscream"! This is one of the creepiest, yet one or the best thrillers I've ever read. It is not only one, but two thrillers in one book. After reading "Sandman", her ...   Read More

Amy B

One of the Best Books of the Year
Having taken extra time to do an excellent job, we readers are especially happy that this wonderful book has been WELL WORTH THE WAIT. I felt this books spoke to me and opened me up to the world of WWII and the women who lived through it. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Round-up at Vélodrome d'Hiver

In the early morning hours of July 16, 1942, the French police took Jews living in Paris into custody. In the two days that followed, over 13,000 Jews were arrested – 4000 of those were children – in what became the biggest arrest in France during World War II. Seven thousand of these people were taken to the Vélodrome d'Hiver, a bicycle velodrome and sports stadium, to await deportation to Nazi death camps.

Jewish WomenThe Vichy French government (established in 1940 after Germany occupied France) worked closely with Germany in order to maintain even a modicum of sovereignty. And on September 21, 1940, a German ordinance forced Jews in the occupied zone to register their religion. And so, in 1942, when Germany exerted pressure on ...

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