The Nightingale- No Spoiler Book Review

As Book lovers, many of us are well acquainted with those nights when we know we should get to bed, but we just can’t put down the book we’re reading until we’ve finished it. This was me last night while reading the last quarter of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

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I don’t even know how to do this book justice in a review, but I’m going to try my best just the same. This novel is a great example of what historical fiction as a genre can accomplish. It takes what we know of history but gives us as readers the ability to step into the shoes of the characters who are living through the events that happened before many of us were even born. It shows us parts of day to day life that we might otherwise not consider while reading about the overall big picture presented in our history books.

The Nightingale follows the lives of two very different sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, as they do what they must to survive in France during WWII. Vianne is the older of the two, a wife whose husband is being held prisoner in a Nazi war camp, but also a mother who wants more than anything to keep her daughter as safe as she can while struggling just to keep them fed. Isabelle is the young and impulsive sister with a rebel’s spirit, a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. In German occupied France, these are dangerous times. Throughout the story the two sisters are forced to make choices time and time again that could be the difference between life and death, not only for themselves, but for those around them.

Several times while reading this I thought back to people I’ve met and cared for who were there in the thick of things during WWII. In previous jobs I’ve had I have taken care of people from different walks of life, born in different countries, but who all had lived during the same war. Soldiers, civilians, holocaust survivors. I’ve seen firsthand the numbers that were forcibly tattooed onto a person’s arm in their youth that they had to carry with them into their old age long after the war was over. I’ve seen how something seemingly as simple as helping someone to undress and take a shower even decades later can trigger a horrible flashback that mentally takes them right back to the horrors of life in a concentration camp. As I read The Nightingale I couldn’t help but be reminded of these people I once knew. I was moved to tears several times as I read this book.

There is a quote from the book that I think is very relevant now, much as it would have been back then. “What good is safety if she has to grow up in a world where people disappear without a trace because they pray to a different God?” Wars like WWII don’t happen overnight, and I think this book illustrates that very point. Hate, ignorance, and intolerance are all ugly things that can only build in momentum if we let them. This happened then, and one can’t help but feel it happening now. It makes another, older quote come to mind: Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It is a disturbing thing to consider, but we as people have to learn from the mistakes of the past if there is ever to be any hope of us moving forward. As another quote from the book explains, “love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”

The Nightingale shines a light on the ugliest parts of humanity as well as the beauty and compassion we are capable of if only we choose to do the right thing and be there for one another. It shows that love comes in many forms, not all of them perfect or easy.  This book gets a solid 5/5 stars from me.

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Watcha Reading: The Girl With All the Gifts

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Although I have yet to mention it in this blog, I belong to a pretty snazzy book club. We’re a small group (there are only eight of us), but we have a great dynamic and have managed to keep it that way for three years now as of this month. Each month, one of us is in charge of picking about four to five books for the rest of our lot to vote on. The winning book is what we end up reading and then we get together near the end of the month to discuss the book (honestly, only for like five minutes and then the talk always turns to inappropriate banter on one topic or another for the rest of the night). There’s also almost always booze and delicious food. Needless to say, it’s always a good time. 🙂

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This month is my turn to play hostess. I suggested a variety of books, and the winner was The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. A few of the girls even had it on their TBR lists already. I’d had a good friend of mine recommend it to me months ago. She literally squealed with joy when I told her I was finally going to be reading it.

Although I am not all that far into the book yet, I can honestly say I like it quite a bit already. It doesn’t suffer from any sort of a slow start or info dump that you sometimes have to get through in even the best of books. The chapters are short and interesting, with different characters’ POVs. The characters have depth to them and feel real. Your initial assumptions about them do not define them as characters. They’re complex.

I don’t want to give much about the plot away since I think it is kind of fun going into it without much background info like I did. It’s a book that doesn’t feel the need to spoon feed you all the answers right away. You learn more about the characters, plot, and setting the further you go along reading it. It is a dystopian horror, I can tell you that much. The world has seen better days in it, and although the outlook of the future is grim, there is hope. But what if you had to do horrible things to hang on to that hope? Unethical things? It’s a story that forces its characters to set aside their humanity at times all in the hopes of saving humanity. And all while questioning what exactly even defines humanity to begin with.

If you’re interested in it, here is the book’s goodreads page so you can read a little more about it, but I do honestly think this is a book that is fun to go into with very little background information on it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17235026-the-girl-with-all-the-gifts