The Nightingale

The Nightingale

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.FRANCE, 1939In 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...

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Title:The Nightingale
Author:Kristin Hannah
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Nightingale Reviews

  • Lori

    With tears still running down my cheeks I'm writing this review. I've started this review several times and I don't think I'll be able to adequately put into words the power in which this novel has moved me. Truely a remarkable story that I, literally, beg everyone who loves historical fiction to read. I will be gushing about this novel for some time to come.

  • Aestas Book Blog

    has a 4.8/5 rating average on Amazon (which is HUGE!!) and what that basically means is that practically everyone who is reading it is loving it. And I'm now adding my own 5 STAR rating to that list because this book owned my heart. The ending was so

    has a 4.8/5 rating average on Amazon (which is HUGE!!) and what that basically means is that practically everyone who is reading it is loving it. And I'm now adding my own 5 STAR rating to that list because this book owned my heart. The ending was so powerful that I read the last 10 pages with tears pouring down my face and days after finishing my read, I still can't stop thinking about it.

    I will say upfront though that this book was a little different than the kinds I usually read and review though because it wasn't solely focused on a love story, even though there were two love stories within it.

    While men endure great hardship during war, it affects everyone. This is the often-unspoken story of women's war. Mothers, daughter, sisters, wives... this is the story of their strength, endurance, sacrifice, and courage during the darkest part of their lives. So many of them didn't just wait for their men to return but took many grave risks to save as many other lives as they could.

    We begin the story in 1995 with an old woman towards the end of her life, moving out of her house into a retirement home. Without much of a future ahead of her, she begins to look backward at her past, taking us with her through her life story beginning in France 1939, right before the war changed her peaceful life.

    The flash back segments of the book are largely focused on two sisters: the older Vianne, the rule follower, and the younger Isabelle, the rebel. Vianne's idealic life in the countryside with her husband, Antoine, who she'd been in love with since she was fourteen and their young daughter, Sophie, was changed when he was to be mobilized and called to duty to fight in WW2. The postman became a soldier overnight, and the man she loved was sent to the front, leaving her behind not knowing what the future would bring.

    Months into her husband's deployment, with no word still from him and with their already-dire situation getting worse and worse after France surrendered to Germany, Vianne and Sophie's lives are once again changed when a young German officer requisitions their home, making it his own. Faced with one hardship after another, they both do everything they can to survive, and pray for Antoine's safe return.

    Miles away, Vianne's younger sister Isabelle attends a sort of finishing school for French woman and hates every single moment of it. Her outspoken and rebellious nature unwilling to bow to their rules. When the war comes though, she makes her way through the wilderness to Paris.

    Refusing to accept France's surrender, and despite her sister's pleading to stay quiet and safe, she follows her heart and meets a young man named Gaetan. She falls in love with him and his belief that the French can fight the Nazis from within France. But when things take an unexpected turn, she decides to take matters into her own hands, regardless of what anyone tells her she can't do, and joins an underground group, The Resistance, that risks their lives to make a difference and help save as many others as they can.

    You know that feeling when a book is so absorbing that you just want to cancel all your plans so you can keep reading it... and even when you can't read it, you're thinking about it? Yeah, that was me with this book! Once I started reading, I could barely put it down until I'd reached the last page.

    As the past and present storylines began to entwine, these shivers ran down me as certain reveals were brought into the light. Real shivers. Tears would spring to my eyes with even the simplest of things -- but ones that had such a hugely powerful impact on the story. A letter from Paris. BOOM. Tears.

    This book is honest in portraying the events that occurred to these characters, but not overly graphic. It doesn't need to be. The things that happen, and they way they are told are so powerful that you FEEL them. There are some scenes though that are hard to read because they are quite painful and I'll warn that there may be triggers for some people, but then again, this is a story that takes place during a brutal war. There's everything you can expect from such a story -- brutal firefights, prison camps, beatings, near starvation, sacrifice... but there is also hope, resilience, survival. As I neared the end of the book, during the last few pages, tears began to pour down my face. It was achingly beautiful.

    Many of you will be wondering if there is a happy ending. I don't want to give things away, but I want you to know that I was completely okay with this ending. It's naturally not all sunshine and roses, how can it be with such a setting? But my gut feeling tells me that even hard-core romance fans will still love this book. I was moved to tears several times, but in many ways my heart was healed.

    Kristin Hannah's writing is some of the best I've ever read. It's extraordinarily vivid and evocative. This was my first book by her and I felt like I was right there with these characters -- not only were their emotions so strongly conveyed, but the picture of their surroundings came to life before my eyes.

    I have searched for years without luck for a book that could even come close to comparing to my all-time favorite book,

    (

    ). This book however, is the closest I’ve ever come to one that captured a similar feeling. The story is vastly different — while

    completely revolved around one love story that was the driving force behind the entire trilogy,

    was focused on two sisters and their experiences surviving the war -- while the sisters each had their own love stories, it was their personal journeys that this book was focused on. I also found TBH to generally be more emotional than TN. So, it’s not of course a direct parallel. But I will say that if you’re a fan of TBH and if, like me, you’ve been searching for years for a similar book, then you absolutely must read this.

    This was honestly one of the most powerful stories I've read. It will stay in my heart, I know this for a fact. More than anything, what I take away from it is gratitude... gratitude for every single freedom and luxury that I know so many of us naturally take for granted. They are precious. This book reminded me of that.

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    For those of you who want to know who lives and who dies...

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  • Regan

    Beautiful.

  • Chelsea Humphrey

    I'm not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but the quality and sheer excellence to this story blew my mind. I'm not typically a fan of historical fiction, which is likely why I've avoided it for so long, but once this was described to me as "historical fiction light" I felt it was safe to take a gamble on it. When we decided for this to be the Suspenseful Clues and Thrilling Reviews September book choice, I was nervous because WHAT IF I HATED THIS BELOVED BOOK?!

    C

    I'm not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but the quality and sheer excellence to this story blew my mind. I'm not typically a fan of historical fiction, which is likely why I've avoided it for so long, but once this was described to me as "historical fiction light" I felt it was safe to take a gamble on it. When we decided for this to be the Suspenseful Clues and Thrilling Reviews September book choice, I was nervous because WHAT IF I HATED THIS BELOVED BOOK?!

    Clearly this is a WWII saga, but at heart I felt this was a variety of love stories. Sure there was romance, but I'm talking the love for a people, the love for a country, and the love for fighting for all that is good and right. It'll be awhile before I can pick up another emotional read because I don't know how I'll recover from this one! Please, even if (like me) you steer clear of historical fiction and love stories, do yourself a favor and pick this up. ❤️

    *Feel free to join in our discussion via the link below!

  • Hailey (HaileyinBookland)

    I've been told by so many people that I need to read this book. It gets so much hype that I thought there was absolutely NO way it would live up to it. But it did more than that. It surpassed it.

    My favourite books is a pretty exclusive list and it usually takes me a while to decide whether a book fits that list or not but this was an instant favourite. I absolutely adored it. Even just thinking about it now I am fighting back tears because this was such a beautiful and vivid story. I felt like

    I've been told by so many people that I need to read this book. It gets so much hype that I thought there was absolutely NO way it would live up to it. But it did more than that. It surpassed it.

    My favourite books is a pretty exclusive list and it usually takes me a while to decide whether a book fits that list or not but this was an instant favourite. I absolutely adored it. Even just thinking about it now I am fighting back tears because this was such a beautiful and vivid story. I felt like I was with these characters through all of their terrible experiences and I just wanted to shelter them from it all. The women in particular, the sisters, were absolutely inspirational. They showed incredible strength in this terrible time and I loved seeing how women contributed to the war. This was just a story that really resonated with me. It has a special place in my heart for it was truly, beautiful.

    If you like WWII historical fiction, or even if you don't, I encourage you to try this book out. I know I'm going to be encouraging basically everyone I know to read it.

  • Emily May

    What, indeed.

    I really didn't know what to expect going into

    . Given the quote about love and war in the blurb, I kind of thought it might be an historical romance set during the Second World War - like the world really needs another

    - but it turned out to be so much more than that.

    There are love stories in

    ,

    What, indeed.

    I really didn't know what to expect going into

    . Given the quote about love and war in the blurb, I kind of thought it might be an historical romance set during the Second World War - like the world really needs another

    - but it turned out to be so much more than that.

    There are love stories in

    , but that's not really what the book is about. It's about women in wartime, and it's

    . We're told in the book that men always assume war is about them - it's true - so this is the untold story of the home front.

    These are the women who are forced to house Nazi soldiers, the women who are manipulated into betraying their friends, the women who wish they could fight for their country and the women who secretly do. The main story is about two very different sisters - Vianne and Isabelle - who are trying to survive during wartime.

    Vianne is older and misses her husband (who is in a Nazi war camp); she must deal with her rebellious younger sister and the Nazi soldier living in her home, whilst also making sure her daughter doesn't starve. Isabelle is one of those borderline insufferable characters that also inspires affection. She reminds me of fiery, annoying, but ultimately lovable heroines like Scarlett O'Hara from

    and Kitty from

    . The best thing about her, though, is her growth. She starts out a naive 18 year old who falls in love with handsome young men instantly, and she later grows into someone wiser. I loved the way her characterization was handled.

    On that note about falling in love, this book throws up a number of red herrings. When Isabelle instantly falls for Gaetan, I was rolling my eyes and thinking "oh great. It's

    kind of book." But don't worry, that isn't the story being told here and Isabelle has a lot to learn. It's a multilayered book and none of the relationships are straight forward.

    And it's also incredibly sad and moving in parts, as a book about war generally is. Children in wartime are forced to grow up so fast in order to survive. Take, for example, this exchange between Vianne and her daughter:

    You really get a sense of how the Nazis took over the lives of the French people. How it was subtle and manipulative, built on fear. They gradually caused divisions within communities, scaring people into betraying their friends.

    It wasn't a perfect book, if there is such a creature. There were some slow parts that could have been shortened or edited out all together. And I wish the author hadn't used a bunch of American terms and measurements. For example, a "cup" measurement is not used in France. But whatever, I enjoyed it a lot.

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  • Laura

    So many 4 & 5 star reviews here, but I'm afraid I just thought this WWII historical novel was okay. There are so many novels about this time period and I didn't think this one rose above the heap. The last one to do that for me was Kate Atkinson's

    and this just can't even compare to that or to David Gillham's

    .

    There's some nice detail about the home front in France, which I have read less about than the English home front. And there are some exciting scenes featu

    So many 4 & 5 star reviews here, but I'm afraid I just thought this WWII historical novel was okay. There are so many novels about this time period and I didn't think this one rose above the heap. The last one to do that for me was Kate Atkinson's

    and this just can't even compare to that or to David Gillham's

    .

    There's some nice detail about the home front in France, which I have read less about than the English home front. And there are some exciting scenes featuring the French resistance's efforts to get downed pilots out of France. But there are also some small but annoying anachronisms (antibiotics were not really available until after the war; Germans didn't put up signs saying people would be put in "concentration camps"). Everything seemed very predictable: a hiding place in the barn is introduced; you just know it's going to figure in hiding Jews later. A kind Nazi is featured, as well as a sadistic one. And the last quarter of the book races through torture and concentration camps and death marches in a way I found tedious and unenlightening. Then there is what is supposed to be a twist at the end, but I felt like I saw it coming.

    So if you really, really love WWII historicals this might be worth your time, but I've read better from Kristin Hannah and much better about WWII.

  • MomToKippy

    For me this was a fusion of sub-literary chick lit and WWII fiction in that it was too cliche and melodramatic much of the time. I thought the female perspective of occupied France and the tales of the resistance as well as the opposing sisters' perspectives were generally good ideas but the whole thing lacked in the execution.

    The tone of the book doesn't feel authentic to the time period and there are numerous unbelievable incidents and interactions. The historical facts are covered but the atm

    For me this was a fusion of sub-literary chick lit and WWII fiction in that it was too cliche and melodramatic much of the time. I thought the female perspective of occupied France and the tales of the resistance as well as the opposing sisters' perspectives were generally good ideas but the whole thing lacked in the execution.

    The tone of the book doesn't feel authentic to the time period and there are numerous unbelievable incidents and interactions. The historical facts are covered but the atmosphere and characters feel too modern. There are just too many dialogue and behavioral anachronisms. It's as if the the history had been researched only superficially and the rest filled in by the author's imagination with caricatures and stereotypes.

    Sorry but I think Hannah's fans deserve better.

  • Violet wells

    It was the comparisons to All the Light We Cannot See that attracted me to The Nightingale. Though both novels are set during WW2 the similarities for me stopped there. All the Light is a magical novel electric with beautiful resounding prose and refined artistry; The Nightingale is a novel motored essentially by cliché and exaggeration.

    Clichéd writing isn’t just resorting continually to stock phrases (though Hannah does this a lot); it’s also straining for tension through exaggeration to the p

    It was the comparisons to All the Light We Cannot See that attracted me to The Nightingale. Though both novels are set during WW2 the similarities for me stopped there. All the Light is a magical novel electric with beautiful resounding prose and refined artistry; The Nightingale is a novel motored essentially by cliché and exaggeration.

    Clichéd writing isn’t just resorting continually to stock phrases (though Hannah does this a lot); it’s also straining for tension through exaggeration to the point where dramatic tension degenerates into melodrama. No surprise that clichéd phrases often perform a task of exaggeration. - “She was scared to death.” “She couldn’t believe her eyes.”

    The Nightingale reads like YA fantasy fiction. Everything is wildly exaggerated so that WW2 is perceived as a kind of post nuclear holocaust world where this one event utterly eclipses the world we live in. The perspective of the novel is one of hindsight as if all the characters are experiencing not the daily hardships of the war but the totality of all WW2’s horrors. It’s like her research consisted of jotting down every single horror story and deprivation and shoe-horning them all into her story. It’s mostly set in a small town in the middle of France yet this small town is “swarming” with German soldiers, Gestapo, SS, Jews, bomb damage as if the entire war is centred there (I was only surprised Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t have a holiday home there as well). The two main characters are loaded with the ordeals & accomplishments of an entire circuit of resistance members. Isabelle is every SOE heroine rolled into one and Vianne is a kind of female Schindler.

    Plausibility is often sacrificed to “thrills and spills”. In the space of three pages a Jewish woman is told the Nazis will arrive at her house the next morning. Three paragraphs later – or two hours later - she has magically acquired false identity papers. Three paragraphs later she is about to cross through a peaceful checkpoint when inexplicably the German guard begins machine gunning everyone as if he got bored just checking papers. He even takes the trouble to shoot the woman’s nine year old child in the back. This is all passed off without explanation as if it were a normal wartime incident.

    The big surprise though is that the ending is genuinely moving and really well managed. Hence all the gushing reviews. Basically to enjoy this you need to anaesthetize your critical faculties. That done I guess there’s enjoyment to be had because Hannah is a decent storyteller and is good at developing human relationships. No doubt it’ll soon be a Hollywood film.

  • Gabriella

    I really tried, you guys. There was even a 20% period when my standards were reduced so low from the previous 70%, that I thought maybe, maybe 2*. But the last 10% was offensive. Yes, I said offensive.

    Review later. And by review, I mean bitch rant fest.

    ---------

    People keep asking me how I didn’t like this book. Honestly, I want to ask them how they did.

    Never have I ever read a book by such a clueless, air-headed author.

    And I actually don’t even mean that to be mean, or to pick on KH. It’s just

    I really tried, you guys. There was even a 20% period when my standards were reduced so low from the previous 70%, that I thought maybe, maybe 2*. But the last 10% was offensive. Yes, I said offensive.

    Review later. And by review, I mean bitch rant fest.

    ---------

    People keep asking me how I didn’t like this book. Honestly, I want to ask them how they did.

    Never have I ever read a book by such a clueless, air-headed author.

    And I actually don’t even mean that to be mean, or to pick on KH. It’s just that quite frankly, those are the truest words to describe what was obviously in Hannah’s mind when she wrote this book: nothing.

    She forgets what she writes a chapter, a page, a paragraph, hell, in a few instances, even one sentence, earlier. Examples? Mais oui, but of course!

    1. She forgets to age characters (this in the first chapter. Isabelle is 4 and Vianne is 14 when their mother dies. Vianne is taken crying to Le Jardin and falls in love. At 16, she’s pregnant, at 17 she has a miscarriage. Then, of her miscarriage, Hannah writes: “She’d crawled into her grief and cocooned it around her, unable to care about anyone or anything—certainly not a needy, wailing four-year-old-sister.”)

    2. She forgets the weather. Isabelle treks out of the house pre-dawn in “knee-deep snow” and then steals a bicycle that same morning from an SS officer who is across the street in a cafe. Okay, so I’m from Ottawa, which in 2015 was the coldest capital ON EARTH. I’ll PRETEND you can actually ride a bicycle in “knee-deep” snow (you can’t). But Isabelle takes the bike straight to Henri’s apartment to hide it—I’m sorry but TRACKS?!?!?! The SS officer will walk out of the cafe, see the missing bike…and see tire marks that lead straight to the French Resistance headquarters. Or do you want to tell me people were plowing the streets in this village of a 1000 people?!

    3. She forgets the season. Winter temperatures Isabelle climbs over a rose-covered wall. WHICH, to be fair to Hannah, I live in Tuscany, where roses do grow on some mild winter days. But roses certainly are not growing in Carriveau in the wintertime because...

    4. She forgets CLIMATE. Again, I’m from Ottawa. Hannah’s descriptions of this French winter in her imaginary town in the Loire Valley seem to be inspired by the Arctic Tundra, because she’s got (wait for it, ARE YOU READY?) knee-deep snow, hail, ice rain, sleet, frosted windows, “ice-sheened glass” and “frost-limned windows”, “she didn’t want to go out into the cold white world again … she stepped over the threshold … and out into the snowstorm”, “Bending forward, angling into the wind, she trudged through the wet, heavy snow … hit the ground, cracked her head on the snow-covered step”.

    5. She forgets where her characters are placed (in one instance, Vianne exits her bedroom in the middle of the night to write down the Jewish children’s names on the kitchen table, then finishes her job, leans back, thinks about her own kids for a bit…then reaches out and strokes her sleeping children’s heads, then cuddles in bed with them).

    6. She forgets when characters have no money. Vianne stuffs newspaper print in her coat for extra warmth and gets a tin can of oil in the queue…but has money to just hop on a train to see Isabelle in prison. Forget the permits she would need since by then ALL OF FRANCE was occupied.

    She also doesn’t seem to understand the definition of several key words in her novel: refugee, garden, village, poor.

    is

    local inhabitants of a city under attack fleeing to distant relatives in the countryside or neighboring towns, or lodging in hotels in the countryside or neighboring towns. I also took a lot of issue with how Hannah describes these fleeing locals.

    Notice how they’re all…not human? Lumped into a collective beast (a dragon, rushing water, millipede, pack of growling, hungry wolves) that is THE REFUGEES? But what’s more sickening about all of this is that Isabelle was part of them, and yet never once does Hannah include her in these ominous descriptions of (dun dun dun dunnnnn) THE REFUGEES. Instead, she was getting kissed by the handsome Gaetan, because she’s above the smelliness of refugee status, apparently. Also, we’re reminded

    throughout the book that “the refugees” broke Vianne’s gate. This kind of language that dehumanizes refugees needs to stop.

    Le Jardin is supposedly a garden, and literally means “The Garden” in French. But this “garden” is a fucking farm because in a 1940 French village it has chickens, rabbits (both plural), a stone wall covering all of it, a BARN with a car inside it, and ANOTHER cellar, a hill with a “hillside between the garden and the barn” and is so big that Isabelle can come in the middle of the night with three communists and move the car in the barn and hide a dead body and Vianne, inside at home, HEARS NOTHING. More implausible still, even after the wall was torn down, not ONE of the poor, starving French people broke in to steal her fruits, vegetables, and live stock.

    This village of 1000 people has Nazis, SS, and Gestapo, and a networked train system.

    Seriously guys, what class were these people? Farmers? Because they own a farm. Village people? Nope, because they have expensive silverware, Limoges plates, Alençon lace, original impressionist paintings, and a spare bedroom. Let’s break down the math. Isabelle is 19 in 1939. She is 10 years younger than Vianne. So Vianne was born in approx. 1910. Which means…despite a dead mother, a drunk absent father throughout her entire life, growing up in WWI, living through the GREAT DEPRESSION that followed, getting pregnant at 16 (and going to university while pregnant, according to Hannah) miraculously her and her parents had money (they live in a house a mile away from a village of 1000 people, keep in mind), for a car and to put both girls in university. A car, a property with an acre of land, university for both daughters—I mean, I’m jealous here in 2016. Isabelle is bilingual, and knows how to drive a car, and is

    . I just can’t stress the time period enough. Getting kicked out, no less, for failing to learn how to cut an orange. At 19. So then who taught her English, if her school was so worthless? I doubt it was her dead mother or absent father. To say nothing of the fact that back then at 19 you should be married.

    During the war, they were eating cats and rats. People were stealing bread. There was nothing. Salt was precious as gold and used for preserving food, NEVER for seasoning it. Some examples of starvation during wartime poverty in this book:

    This book read more like a Mediterranean slim fast diet and a vintage fashion catalog than anything else. Other than Hannah constantly saying how much they were losing weight and starving and going without, I would never have known. Take away her adjectives like stale and precious, and it’s fucking gourmet.

    If this book wasn’t so heavily inspired by Andrée De Jongh, I might not be so harsh on it. But it is. So, yes, a woman who WAS a war hero, after working for the Red Cross, who set up the Comet Line with her father, went to a concentration camp, survived—for Hannah to sentimentalise her life the way she did, it IS offensive. By focusing so heavily on Isabelle’s beauty, and having Isabelle’s beauty be the reason she so easily slides past the Nazis (even Isabelle admits this!), Hannah is actually ROBBING De Jongh of her strength, courage, power, heroism.

    This book is no more historical fiction than Disney is a true retelling of the Brothers Grimm stories. Which gets even WORSE when you start looking at what Hannah opted to change from the real De Jongh. No mention of a spouse, in later life or during the war effort, is mentioned for De Jongh. She survived the concentration camp and lived until she was 90. She began establishing the Comet Line after she first worked in the Red Cross (ie, she didn’t scribble a V on a poster and hand out fliers and BAM, hiked Pyrenees). In contrast, Hannah gives Isabelle daddy issues, has her begin working for the rebels to impress a love interest, then has her die contentedly in her lover’s arms.

    Then there is the writing style.

    The number of times that Hannah repeated the same mediocre turn of phrase had me feeling like she was just enamored with her own writing. Which was sad, because the oft-repeated turns of phrase were mediocre at best, rendered embarrassing after, oh, the fifth time. How many times does a car horn “aah-oo-gah”? How many times do characters note the black markings on the wall where pictures used to hang? Hint: one time too many. How many times is something “was all she could say”? (Seven times too many. Note to Hannah: if that’s all a character says, it goes without saying that that’s all she could say.) How many times do people “tent” their hands over their eyes?

    The French words peppering this novel were the most generic one word expressions (oui, merde) that felt like Hannah couldn't be bothered to consult a French editor so she stuck with the most basic words. Merde is not the go-to French cuss either. Nor is it especially not the ONLY French cuss word either.

    Similes that mix senses abound — “roses tumbling like laughter” is just ONE example. Clouds are stretched tight as clotheslines — it goes on. The result was, for me, a very cartoonish book with clothesline-hanger clouds (complete with clothes flapping), laughing roses, and a Roger Rabbit cameo every time a horn “aah-oo-gahs”. And, in fact, Hannah thought her little aah-oo-gah was so clever that she even turned it, in one instance, into a verb. Aah-oo-gahed.

    I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried, you guys.

    Think that’s not so bad? In the middle of a detailed rape scene, we have, ladies and gents,

    ooph

    This is exactly the kind of sentimental, senseless, ridiculous, bullshit chick-lit writing that is PRECISELY why men make fun of chick-lit, and what basically sets feminism back about a leap year or three.

    Then there was what I can only describe as empty calorie description. The only flowers Hannah seems to know of are jasmines and roses. Every time there is a group of people, a baby wails and women cry/scream. Every. Bloody. Time.

    This is a generic description of motherhood that I, a non-mother, could have come up with.

    I could go on about the idyllic descriptions of France in WWII. All I’ll say is seriously, just pick up a vintage hat catalogue and French magazine and you’ve got the best of KH’s The Nightingale. We’re talking picnics with checkered blankets, brimmed hats, aprons, pencil skirts, berets. The book was a fashion show, really. The anachronisms were so bad too that it felt like watching a shoddily done play where the only thing historical is the fashion. (Expressions like “I’m pretty sure” and “bombed the hell out of” make appearances.)

    Am I being too harsh? I could just be a little pissed of still from the fucking bullshit that was the last two chapters of this trash book.

    SO this book is about two polar opposite sisters in Nazi-occupied France. Sounds brilliant! Except it has fuck all to do with sisters. It’s all romance. All the book does is romanticise war. You might be thinking, but come on, what’s wrong with adding romance in a war story?

    Honestly? NOTHING.

    So why am I complaining that this is “romanticized”? Because Hannah uses war and tragedy in SERVICE of a romance. It’s a backdrop, a pretty set, for a romance to play out, just like the 5,000,000,055 references to clothes, hats, and valises.

    Is this book really about two sisters learning to love each other? I wish.

    Isabelle puts not just her sister but also her NIECE in jeopardy by bringing the downed airman into the barn. She escapes, Vianne stays behind. What happens when Isabelle receives a letter saying that Vianne has a new Nazi billeting with her? This:

    And then a page of her unrequited love for Gaetan. That, you guys, is all the passing thought she gives to her sister.

    Have you guys heard this famous quote by Winnie the Pooh? “Always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Well, have you also heard the modernized tumblr version? It’s the same, but with “and twice as beautiful as you ever imagined.” That last addition is usually written in bigger text or italicized for emphasis. I’m going to quote

    who analyzed it first:

    Brave, strong, and smart are NOT enough for women—they must be beautiful, too.

    Why is this related to The Nightingale? Because of THIS:

    Then in the last chapter, Vianne:

    According to Hannah, it isn’t that Isabelle survived the concentration camps and is a war hero that matters. What matters is that she came back STILL BEAUTIFUL.

    Yes, I do realise that she was bald and had malnutrition, weighed eighty pounds, had typhus and pneumonia and was coughing blood. I do realise that Hannah was saying that, despite all that, she was beautiful. Which at face value seems like a terrific message to send out.

    But more important than her dying a war hero, was that she died a woman in love. Because that’s Vianne’s final thought, the final thing about her sister at the speech at the end. That she died a woman in love. Not, as Hannah tried to pretend, after seeing a free France and being part of the resistance. In the camp, Isabelle “had to stay alive long enough to see an Allied victory and a free France.” But she does see a free France... and still her life is not “enough.” In fact, she wanders out in the rain because “Gaetan promised to find me after the war was over ... I need to get to Paris so he can find me.” Her life becomes “enough” when Gaetan appears.

    Why isn’t it enough that Isabelle is a war hero? That she was brave? Smart? Strong? Here’s a radical feminist thought: why can’t we, as women, just leave beauty out of the equation entirely? Even if she was a pretty woman, why does it need to be mentioned? And at every page, too?

    Which brings me back to that Winnie the Pooh quote. For women, to be brave, strong, and smart, it is not enough.

    Because Isabelle was exactly all three of those things.

    And let me ask Hannah the same question she asked in the book.

    Yeah, Hannah? Well, do people say “He died both a hero and a man in love”?

    I think not.

    Let it be enough that she was a war hero, please.

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