My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yes, it’s another book about the Holocaust, which is not groundbreaking, but it’s about so much more than that, as well. Although it took me close to 70 pages to begin caring about the characters in The Nightingale, before I knew it I was not just crying, but weeping for them and slamming my book shut at how the war was devastating these real people I had grown to love. I can’t accurately describe the weight of what The Nightingale has taught me about love and war, but I’ll do my best.
Vianne and Isabelle, who are two sisters living in Occupied France during WWII, and who we follow throughout the book, couldn’t be more opposite of one another. Before the war, Isabelle was just seen as a pretty face; she was a headturner, easily charming any man she passed by and acting as a source of jealousy to the women around her. Her courageous actions throughout the war are what will stick with me, though. While she fought to free minds and to preserve her country’s honor, Vianne fought the thin line separating survival from pride. Neither at first glance would be expected to participate in the war effort or a political campaign, however Isabelle proves to be resilient and impetuous, with a heart already full of rebellion, making her perfect for the French Resistance. Vianne, her older sister, tries to remain a silent figure so as not to provoke the Germans now living as their neighbors. She plays the role of a protective mother during a time of little food and much shame and is a perfect representation of tension in wartime, of making decisions that have no possible positive outcome, and of the anxiety between choosing what is right and difficult versus what is wrong but easy. Together they form a dynamic relationship that is a portrayal of all people who have experienced war closehand.
Simply put, war changes people. It creates animals out of some, it breaks others, and it almost always shows people’s true colors.
What good is it to be physically alive if we have to betray our beliefs and everything that constitutes what we live for to preserve our bodies? What use are we if we are dead in spirit and mind, devoid of emotions, just shuffling through our lives? Is a life without freedom in a devastated world even a life worth living?
Besides these, there are plenty of other questions. Kristin Hannah, my hat is off to you. You have unknowingly aided me in self-discovery, allowing me to search for more meaning to the life I take for granted.
Please, read this book for yourself, but also know that it does not come without some heartbreak. It is raw, dark, and emotional to the point where I could see the scars left on our poor world. Even with these scars, somehow war remains, leaving us behind in its wake.
Goodreads Rating: 4.53
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