Her Reads: The Nightingale
It's been a while since I've read a book that made me cry, and I can't even remember the last time a book made me bawl hysterically. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah made me do both. In public.
The Nightingale was my first book to complete for my 2016 reading challenge, and upon completion, I was able to check off my historical fiction challenge for the year (although, I am sure I'll manage to read more historical fiction; it's kind of my favorite). Let's just start with this: it has a 4.5/5 rating on Goodreads, which is pretty spectacular considering Goodreads users can be pretty harsh. When I am perusing Goodreads for my next book, I usually only consider books with a 3.5 rating or higher, so a 4.5 rating really is phenomenal.
The Nightingale is set in France during World War II. I know what you're thinking: another WWII book. This work by Kristin Hannah is extremely different than what you're used to reading about WWII. It's smart. It's complicated. It's entertaining. It's sad. It's moving. It's thought-provoking. It's mind-boggling. And the protagonists are women: strong women who are very different but who are fighting for the same things: freedom, love and family. It sounds cliche, but this book couldn't be farther from a cliche.
This novel kept me on my toes throughout every page turn, every end scene, every new chapter. The very first chapter opens in such a way that we know what's going on, but there's a big detail missing that keeps you guessing throughout the course of the book. If you've read The Nightingale, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.
One of my favorite things about this book is the way it glorifies the heroine. Oftentimes we hear of men accomplishing extraordinary things for their families and countries, but in The Nightingale, the woman is the focal point. It's about two women with two very different lives and very different agendas, both fighting in the way they know how for something they believe in. It's beautiful.
I finished this book on a plane, which in hindsight wasn't the best idea, but I just couldn't put it down. I had to stop every so often to compose myself and dry my tears, and thankfully I had the whole row to myself, so I didn't alarm anyone with my hysteria. It felt so real to me; reading this book felt as though I was reading someone's diary. Pieces of this work also reminded me of what many are going through in other parts of the world today: they're being forced from their homes, separated from their families, surviving on barely anything, all while holding onto a glimmer of hope that they and their families will make it out alive. I love a story that is decades old, yet still resonates today.
Another aspect of The Nightingale that I love is the subtle lessons it teaches through both the building and destructing of relationships. At one point, one of the characters says, "...love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us." In the context of what is being portrayed here, this was one powerful message. My heart skipped a beat at that line because it was such a profound moment for the characters. Additionally, love is major piece of this book, both within families and romantic relationships. I don't know a single person in the world who doesn't long to be loved by someone - anyone - whether it be family, friends or romantic pursuits. At one point, our omniscient narrator states, "All her life she had waited - longed for - people to love her, but now she saw what really mattered. She had known love, been blessed by it." I think I cried for a solid three minutes after reading that piece.
If you're looking for your next read, I highly recommend The Nightingale. I will be boosting its Goodreads rating with a five-star review. If you've read The Nightingale, what did you think? No spoilers, please!
You can purchase The Nightingale on Amazon here. Happy reading!