SYNOPSIS: Vianne is a mother who has to think of her daughter’s safety while her husband is at the front fighting the Nazis. Her sister, Isabelle doesn’t understand Vianne’s compliance and does everything she can to rebel. The war changes both women as they fight to survive in their own way.
There are so many historical fiction novels about WWII that it can be hard to find new angles to tell the story from. What I liked about The Nightingale was that it told the story of what was going on in France which is a perspective that I hadn’t read from before. I really wanted to love this book, but I felt that the POV shifts weren’t even and there were times when I felt that Hannah was trying to include everything that could’ve possibly happened to the people of France and didn’t give the time and attention necessary to really paint the picture. For about 75% of the novel I was wondering why Vianne was even necessary. She would only be given small snippets of POV and the bulk of the novel was from Isabelle’s POV. Isabelle arguably had the more “interesting” storyline because she was working for the resistance and had all sorts of secret spy missions to complete while Vianne had to live with a Nazi. I was okay with the first Nazi in Vianne’s home being a sympathetic character, but I wasn’t okay with the weird romance that was sort of blooming between him and Vianne. It felt weird and obvious to me and I was glad that it never developed into something more. Vianne’s second Nazi was the complete opposite and while I’m sure there were Nazi’s that treated the people housing them with the same cruelty that the second Nazi showed, it just felt like overkill compared to everything else that was going on. It wasn’t necessary to tell the story and it just made the first Nazi’s kindness even more unbelievable. The last quarter of the book semi takes place in the Ravensbruck concentration camp and I couldn’t help but compare it to Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein because I thought that that book was fabulous in how it showed such a horrible place and in The Nightingale it again fell flat for me just like the second Nazi’s cruelty. I felt like Hannah was just showing the atrocities because they happened and not because they were important to the characters and the story. Since both sisters had drastically different coping mechanisms and drastically different storylines with very little overlap I felt that I was reading two books instead of one. I felt like Vianne’s story could’ve easily been a book on its own and Isabelle’s story was one that I’ve seen before countless times because everyone is interested in women spies during WWI and WWII. Vianne’s story is one that doesn’t often get told because domestic life is often seen as boring and I wish that her story became important earlier in the book rather than towards the last few chapters. Overall it was an interesting read, but I just didn’t get the emotional response that it was asking for and there were times when the story really dragged.