Breanna Hill, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Best-selling author Kristin Hannah published ‘The Nightingale’ back in 2015 and won over the hearts of millions with her capability of making a story come to life throughout the pages. The demand for more from audiences has managed to encourage the making of a major motion picture based off of this wonderfully creative novel.
This book completely charmed me from the first few pages of chapter one to the very end. It’s a book that keeps you guessing, and you won’t know how the story is quite going to end until the last few pages. It’s a book that will tug at heartstrings and cause readers to feel every emotion known to man. It is definitely a book that I will keep tucked away on a bookshelf and read more than once.
The book is very unique for one specific reason – the story encaptured in the pages is told by two separate characters, and both of them are protagonists. The characters that are telling each side of their story are sisters, Vianne, the older sister and Isabelle, the younger. The entire book is centered around how the two sisters are torn apart and reunited again and again throughout World War II.
The book starts off with a bit of background information about how the two sisters came to be apart at the beginning. When they were younger the sisters lost their mother and their father was never the same after it, so he decided to send them off to live in an orphanage. It wasn’t long before the older sister abandoned her younger sister Isabelle, believing that it would be better that way. Isabelle was already abandoned by her father, and her sister leaving soon after wasn’t something she understood. The relationship between the two sisters was never really the same after that decision made by the bigger sister Vianne.
Vianne then started her life, married and had a daughter. Everything was perfect until her husband, Antoine, was drafted into the war, leaving her to tend to her daughter and keep up with the house all by herself. While Vianne is dealing with the catastrophic knowledge that her beloved may not return home anytime soon, or at all, her younger sister is sent back to her estranged father after yet another mishap at a boarding school she was attending.
While in France with her father, who isn’t really thrilled that she’s there, Isabelle ends up meeting a boy named Gaëtan. Once they get to know each other and feel a sort of bond together, Gaëtan asks Isabelle to go to Carriveau with him to fight against the German. Isabelle agrees and they embark on a journey to the city that her older sister resides in with her daughter, Sophie.
Once they finally arrive, after several hardships, Gaëtan decides to leave Isabelle while she’s asleep, realizing that any harm that may come to her would destroy him. Isabelle is found by her sister and taken in. They live together, butting heads several times on many different issues. While Isabelle is staying there she becomes a part of an underground operation which is part of the French Resistance movement, not only endangering her life, but unknowingly endangering Vianne’s life as well as Sophie’s.
The war continues on and Nazi officers begin living with families in Carriveau as they begin taking over more and more territory. All the while Isabelle has become even more involved with the French Resistance movement, gaining her the title of the Nightingale while simultaneously reuniting with Gaëtan.
Isabelle ends up getting caught and tortured by the German government, and she’s almost executed before her father shows up claiming that he is the Nightingale. Despite their rough relationship as father and daughter, he sacrifices his own life in order to let her go free. She watches as he’s killed, then she’s eventually released and returns to her sister. The entire family is back together including Antoine and Gaëtan. Isabelle ends up dying as soon as she’s reunited with Gaëtan due to health complications, but she dies happily, knowing that she rescued so many people and got them to safety. She made a huge difference when she accepted the title of Nightingale.
The book goes so much more in depth and is truly one of the most incredible books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It caused me to experience so many different kinds of emotions and come to appreciate each and every character, no matter how big or small of a part they played in the plot. I encourage every history buff, or romantic mind to read this book.