I had picked up The Nightingale because I thought I had seen it on some “Best” list. I popped it in the CD player and listened to the first CD. I was distracted and couldn’t keep track of all of the characters and the skipping between the past and the present. I gave up quickly.
A few weeks later I had seen the book on even more “Best” lists and decided to give it another try. After all, I enjoyed some of the author’s other books. Could Kristin Hannah make the jump from fairly light relationship drama to historical fiction?
The second time around I really enjoyed this book. You have to persist past the beginning, but when you do you’re rewarded with good characters and a good, if sometimes predictable, story.
Isabelle is the rebellious sister who is not making it in the world of boarding and finishing schools. She’s kicked out of the latest just as the Second World War is getting underway. She returns to her father in Paris and begs to stay. Soon the Nazis are taking over Paris and Isabelle is fleeing to the countryside to living in relative safety with her sister.
When the Nazis reach the countryside Isabelle joins the resistance (I’m simplifying) and becomes The Nightingale – a famed figure who helps downed airmen out of France and safely to the British Consulate in Spain.
I actually found the story of Vianne, her sister, more interesting. She stays in her family home. Her husband is a prisoner of war and she is trying to keep her daughter safe during the occupation. Initially she sees herself and her situation as helpless, but she grows as the story progresses and ends up being a hero herself.
Some of the characters are more three dimensional than others. Some of the plot points are more robust than others.
Overall, it was an enjoyable book. Good for Hannah for trying new styles and growing as a writer.