Let’s not waste time beating around the bush here: I’m going to recommend you read this novel. If you’re prone to crying in public you might want to consider reading it in the privacy of your home though, and I would also recommend you keep a box of tissues handy at all times! I’m not kidding – this novel is intense!
The thing is: I don’t actually know what else I can tell you without giving too much away. The Nightingale is set during World War II for the most part, which probably already explains why it is so sad. Novels set in that time tend to be, and I honestly don’t know why I even read them. I hate watching films about war, because they tend to be brutal, sad and also just way too predictable given that we all attended our history lessons and therefore know exactly which side is going to win in the end. However, novels are somehow different. I read several novels in the past year that dealt with this subject matter, and they were all rather good. (Please remind me to review All the Light We Cannot See and Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy at some point! I’ve been meaning to get onto that since forever!)
What made The Nightingale special are the relationships that are portrayed in the novel. The two main protagonists are the sisters Vianne and Isabelle, who have two very different approaches to getting through increasingly tough times. Vianne chooses to stay in her family’s house in a small village in France, desperately trying to keep herself and those close to her alive and safe, while Isabelle runs off to Paris to join the Resistance. Both of their paths are littered with incredible losses and many regrets, as they continually have to make choices in a time when ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ have long lost their meanings.
I would argue that The Nightingale is a story about courage and different manifestations of this concept. Both sisters are courageous in their own way, although the paths they choose are very different. The depiction of their evolving relationship throughout the novel is beautifully moving and had me in tears by the end of the novel. Not that that’s especially hard to achieve – I really do cry easily! I had actually anticipated that the novel’s last chapter would make me cry once again. Well…I was right, it did, and I guess I only have myself to blame for assuming I’d only cry once during that chapter – that was delusional and I should’ve known better.
One last point of interest might be that The Nightingale was inspired by the life of a real life heroine: Andrée de Jongh. Kristin Hannah states that the story of that young Belgian woman was what ultimately compelled her to write this book, and I love her statement about the forgotten stories of women during wartime. Kristin Hannah makes a very valid point here and I admire the way she created a novel that tells a fascinating story that focuses on life during wartime away from the trenches and classic ideas of soldierly heroism.
Do you cry easily when you’re reading a book / watching a film?
Books / Film about war – yay or nay?