This summer, I read Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ll be honest, I was something I was excited about but also dreaded. I mean it’s a big book and it’s way out of my safety net of young adult or fantasy genres. But I am so glad I read this book! I really think all young women should read books like these!
The story follows two sisters through the occupation of France during World War II. Both women take very different paths to survive a devastatingly difficult time. It is a story of how resilient women can be, and how courageous women fought against the Nazi in homes, towns and cities as opposed to battlefields.
I give this book a 4.8/5 stars and highly recommend it to everyone and anyone looking for a great story to read. I am not a huge historical fiction fan, but I still loved this book. Try something new if you haven’t read this genre. Also Kristin Hannah is just an amazing writer (I mean I think she could write about paint drying and make it sound interesting haha).
Ok so now that we’ve got the basics over, lets get into the detail! First off, I want to say the only drawback to this book was how long it took me to read. It was partly because of the length (and I do believe some parts of the story were unnecessary and made it slow at times) but it also had to do with my crazy summer schedule. But other than that I loved this book! And wow do I love these characters!! The character development was amazing! The relationship development was 10/10 and I loved almost every person she introduced! I mean, she made a Nazi seem somewhat like able. The only character I wasn’t a huge fan of was Gaetan. I have nothing against him. I just think a woman like Isabelle deserves a more robust character than Gaetan.
I was convinced I would hate Vienne throughout the story, but I think she is so realistic in her relationship with Isabelle. All siblings fight and somewhat dislike each other, until there is something that brings them together and unfortunately for the Rossignol sisters, it was a war. My heart broke when I read that she outlived Sophie! And not even because of the war she had cancer! But it truly was incredible how selfless she was with Sophie. She basically froze and starved herself so Sophie wouldn’t have to.
I think the best thing about this book is hoe genuine and true the characters are written. They are accessible and realistic, rather than some glorified protagonist that I usually see in historical fictions (which is why I am not a huge fan of the genre). But all these characters are put in extraordinary circumstances yet still make decisions that I found myself thinking “oh yea, I would probably make that same choice” or “wow these women are so brave, how could they even make these choices.” Especially Isabelle. She is much more brave than I could ever be, but she didn’t see super heroic or glorified in any way. She felt a duty and acted on those believes. Not that I am saying I could ever do what she did in the book, but I could see how some women in Nazi occupied France made those decisions.
Another great thing about this book was all the twists and turns. I don’t know about you, but I thought the flash forward scenes were Isabelle until they stated that it was Vienne. I literally dropped the book I was so shocked, especially after Isabelle survived the concentration camp! I was also shocked that Julien was the child from Von Richter’s rape. For some reason I just figured she had more children after the war. I also squealed when Ari came to see Vienne and said he never forgot her! Another twist was Captain Beck. I really thought he was going to be more like Von Richter, but he was so polite and nice AND tried to help save Rachel and her children. It made it all the more shocking when Von Richter was as awful as he was.
This book gave me a better grasp on this period in time. I really had only learned about World War II from an American perspective, so the conditions of people living in France or anywhere in Europe was not a topic we talked about a lot. It has definitely made me more interested in the time period and reading more books like it. It has given me hope in the historical fiction genre! Let me know of any good historical fiction books I should read in the comments below!
Until next time,