Narrator: Polly Stone
Published by Macmillan Audio on February 3, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Length: 17 hours, 20 minutes
Audio | Goodreads
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.
In 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 bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne's home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. 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 in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
The story begins right before the German occupation of France in 1940 and continues through the Allied liberation but told retrospectively by one of the two main characters in 1995. The focus is on two sisters, Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rossignol, who couldn’t differ more in disposition and outlook about the war. Through their eyes and voice, we’re given a unique view of life in occupation for French residents who weren’t Jewish and their roles in the Resistance.
Most are familiar with the cruelties of the Nazi SS and the Gestapo but this story’s focus was on how ordinary French people reacted to the takeover of their livelihood and liberties. Isabelle’s and Vianne’s differences in approach probably best represented most of their fellow countrymen and women. I also liked how women were portrayed so prominently in supporting the resistance. There was a line in the book about why their stories weren’t mainstreamed and the response was something like, “Men tell stories, women just pick themselves up and move on.”
Of course this story had many heartbreaking moments but there are almost as many moments of triumph and courage. The story caused me to examine myself more critically, wondering how I would have behaved in those circumstances. The narration was so outstanding, giving distinctive characterizations to a varied and large cast. It was a vivid performance and I don’t think I’ll ever forget Vianne and Isabelle.
Note: The film adaptation is in production and scheduled for release in August 2018. It’s directed by Michelle MacLaren.
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