“Some stories don’t have happy endings. Even love stories. Maybe especially love stories.”
I know what a beloved book this is in the community. Recently, I did a blog post about the highest rated books on my TBR and The Nightingale was number one with a 4.55 average star rating, with 414,290 Ratings and 44,440 Reviews. Like, those are some powerful stats. But basically, after writing up that post, I knew that I had to read this beloved book and find out my thoughts on it.
This is a heartbreaking, historical fiction, WWII story that stars two sisters living in France, when the Germans take over in 1939. But we get to see present day glimpses from 1995, that star an older woman thinking about her life and all the harrowing events that she was forced to live through before immigrating to The United States. But it really develops this complex guessing game where you are not sure which sister is this present day narrator.
“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
➽ Vianne – Living in a small town in Carriveau with her daughter and husband, while grieving that she might not be able to have another child. But that fear and sadness take a backseat when her husband is forced to go to war.
➽ Isabelle – Living in Paris with her father, since she has gotten kicked out of every finishing school that she’s attended. Their father has always been distant from them, but once the Nazis begin to control Paris, he sends Isabelle away to Vianne’s.
And these sisters are so very different in every way. Where Vianne only wants to protect her family, Isabelle wants to fight the Nazis from within France itself. And I’ll be honest, I feel like Isabelle makes sense to be my favorite sister, but her constant recklessness would put Vianne and her daughter, Sophie, in danger all throughout the book. And it only made me crave Vianne’s chapters and dread Isabelle’s.
This was a five star read until Beck’s storyline. No spoilers, but for me Beck was truly the shining light in this book, which I feel awful typing because he was a Nazi. Lord, forgive me. But his storyline really showed how *normal* people have to suffer the wars that powerful and greedy men create, and how nationalism can be terrifying. I don’t know, I just actually hated how his storyline ended and I didn’t care about this book near as much after it. I couldn’t put this down, I was completely captivated, I couldn’t wait to see what came next! And then the most pointless, stupid, and anticlimactic thing in the world happened and I just didn’t care any longer. Truly. And the more time and distance I put between myself and this story, the more I get irritated. (Please don’t think I’m a horrible person.)
Overall, this was a haunting but beautiful book about family and the things we are willing to sacrifice in the name of the ones we love. And how family will always be the people that we choose, not necessarily the blood that runs through our veins. I completely understand why this is such a beloved book in the book community, but maybe it was just a little too hyped for me. Also, my loss of connection really made the ending not as emotional for me, therefore I don’t think that impacted me as much as many other readers, too. But I still really loved most of this story and I can’t wait to read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah!
Content and trigger warnings for war, loss of a loved one, loss of a child, abandonment, miscarrying, violence, gore, death, anti-Semitism, talk of suicide, cancer, slavery, labor camps, sexual assault, rape, and abuse. This is a very dark book at times, so please use caution before reading.