For me, the best kind of books are those that entangle my mind and heart with their characters’ completely, where I see them, and not just read about them. These are those books, wherein between the pages, one hour turns into hours-later-into-the-morning with no regrets. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of those.
It was inspired by the story of Andree de Jongh, a Belgian woman, who helped escape the allied pilots.
The Nightingale tells the story of two estranged sisters Vianne and Isabelle, who lived in France during the World War II. The story is about their struggle to survive and resist the German occupation. They couldn’t have been more different on a surface- one resigned, other always angry – yet in spirit, they were same.
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“Someone told her she couldn’t do something; she did it. Every barrier she turned into a gate.”
The book is in frame narration, a technique which allows a story within a story. It is also because of this technique that the reader has to wait until the very end to find out which sister is telling the story. Who survived?
When I started the novel, I thought it was a wartime romance. It does have love stories, evolving, and dying, but it is much more than that. It is one of the very few novels that celebrate and establish the wartime females as heroes. “Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us, it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
-It is about finding who you are.
“In love, we find out who we want to be; in war, we find out who we are.”
– It is about friendships standing the test of wartime.
-It is about the children in wartime who are forced to grow up fast.
-It is about men in wartime who never came as the one who went in the war; who broke down as regret, grief, and loss settled in them, and how only a lucky few were able to move on.
-It is about surviving the consequences of the war- rape, love, death, guilt, and children born- and living with them.
-It is about redefining a hero.
“I am a mother and mothers don’t have the luxury of falling apart in front of their children, even when they are afraid, even when their children are adults.”
-It is about choice- being good is a choice; being brave is a choice, and forgetting and moving on is a choice.
-And yes, it is about love.
It’s a wonderful wonderful wonderful read that teaches the most important lesson in life:
“Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain.”
A 4.5 /5 for me!
( By the time I finished reading the novel, it was 3:30 am and my eyes were red from all that crying!)
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