Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (audio)

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Polly Stone
Published: February 2015, Macmillan Audio
Length: 17 hours 26 minutes
Source: Library

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

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 France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

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 the compelling and mysterious 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. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to 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.

My thoughts: I have been a fan of Kristin Hannah's books for a while now and as soon as this book came out, I knew I was going to read it - but I also knew I would want to get the audio version of it. Ever since making the choice to listen to instead of read Winter Garden, I just knew this book would be better in audio and I was right...what a phenomenal book and to listen to it was truly exceptional!

I will say - this is an emotionally, heartbreaking book to get through - it will take you through the ringer, but in the end, it is so worth it. It will also make you think - what would you do if you found yourself in either Vianne or Isabelle's position? Do you see yourself more as Vianne or Isabelle?

The book opens up in the present day as an elderly woman - it is unclear whether it is Vianne or Isabelle - is packing up her belongings to move into a care facility. Not until the very end do we find out who this woman is and periodically the story flashes back to her as she reminisces on her life...

Two sisters - different as night and day, learn just how strong they really are during the German occupation of WWII. But, this isn't only a book about surviving the war - it's also about finding the courage to stand up for what you know is right, even when that might put you and those you love in danger. It's about family and love and all that comes with it - strong bonds and dysfunction, too. 

I particularly loved the way Kristin Hannah pointed out all the ways women helped during the war - this wasn't something I was aware of before reading this book. Obviously I knew they supported their families and maintained the homes the best they could, but I didn't know that they risked their lives to help hide Jewish children, among other things. Its little things like this - little facts that authors like Kristin Hannah put into their books that always make reading Historical Fiction leave me wanting to learn more - I absolutely love that!!! 

This is the type of book that stays with you long after you finish reading or listening to it. The characters and the story line are just so vivid that you can't stop thinking about them. This has definitely been one of my favorite reads of the year, despite it's emotional heaviness.  Yes, I cried as I listened to this, but I knew that was a possibility going in and I was okay with that...to me, that's the sign of a good book, and I knew, with this type of subject matter that tears (and a lot of them) were a strong possibility! This is even the type of book that I foresee myself buying just to have on my shelf to remind myself of when I look at - it is that good!

Audio thoughts:
This was an amazing audio book - I am so glad I listened to it. The narrator, Polly Stone did a great job between the accents, the storyline and the pacing - this was a tough one to narrate and I thought she did it very well. I knew I wanted to listen to this book as soon as it was released and I am glad I did - I felt that both Vianne and Isabelle had their own unique voice and it was very easy to follow along. While it is a long audio book, I found myself completely wrapped up in the story and listened for long stretches at a time. 


  1. I've had this one on my Kindle for several months, but I'm determined to read it in 2016. Your review makes me want to even more. I've enjoyed other books by Kristin Hannah, but this seems like she's stepped it up a notch. Looking forward to it! And Happy New Year to you, Kristin!

  2. I've been interested in this book for a while, Kristin. I'm glad you enjoyed it as an audiobook. It sounds very touching.

  3. Good to hear that the book got a narrator worthy of it. Yes I wept too, not until the very end, but for some reason that last bit just hit me. KH is amazing and you are right, Winter Garden was outstanding on audio.

  4. I have had this one for awhile but have decided it will be my 1st read of the year, yaaaay. I have always loved Kristin Hannah and felt this one would be different, I was a little scared I may not enjoy since it was Historic Fiction but still looks like a winner.

  5. I loved this book too. I really should try audio books again since it has been awhile. Love the idea of them, but have a hard time paying attention. Great review.

  6. I'm glad this was a good one. I had it as a possibility for First Book of the Year, but realized I would have to request or put a hold on it and by then it was too late. That's okay as it'll always be there for me to read.


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