Thursday 17 December 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Set in the quiet village of Carriveau, France, in 1939, Vianne Mauriac and her daughter, Sophie say goodbye to Antoine, who heads for the Front. Vianne’s sister, the rebel Isabelle, is eighteen. She meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and Isabelle races headlong into love and danger, without considering the consequences. No one believes the invasion will come, but it does, and makes the pain of living unrelenting, with the difficult daily choices the sisters face.

I didn't know Kristin Hannah wrote historical fiction, but she tells this story from a less explored perspective - the women’s.

From the publisher: "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… a heartbreakingly beautiful novel."

It is all this. The depiction of the relationships was excellent, from the love-hate between sisters, friends who find themselves on opposite sides, fathers, boyfriends and even Nazis. The telling of the history was seamless – never interfering with the story. There was also plenty of action and excitement.

However, there were times I felt exhausted by these unlikely heroines. When I played Barbies as a young girl with my own sister, we needed reasons to put on all their outfits. These attractive bits of plastic therefore went for an ice skate on the pond, rode horses, did a ballet recital, went out to a ball with Ken and starred in a major movie all in a single day. It does make the average woman feel like such an underachiever.

The ending is wonderful, and so is the ride. Worthy of all its accolades.

ISBN: 9780312577223

I alternated between the Audible version and reading this, as I was fortunate to be able to borrow a copy. I liked both, with a slight preference for listening to it.

You may also enjoy Kit by Marina Fiorato, Two Brothers by Ben Elton or Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson.

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