Book Review: 'The Nightingale'

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kristin Hannah. St. Martin's Press, 440 pp. $27.99

I was pleasantly surprised by "The Nightingale," and by Kristin Hannah. I'd never read her before, but I had -- assumingly -- put her in the same category I put Elin Hilderbrand and Debbie Macomber, a category formerly recognized by authors like LaVyrle Spencer and Barbara Delinsky. My mother refers to them as "fluff reading."

Vianne is a mother and the wife of a soldier on the front line.

And she may be quite fluffy, but "The Nightingale" is not. It is actually rather heavy, the story of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France.

Her best friend, Rachel, is Jewish, and a young German captain has requisitioned her home and lives in it with her and her daughter.

Isabelle, on the other hand, has never really had a home. The younger of the two women, she was sent away when she was a child after her mother's death. Since then, she's bounced from boarding school to boarding school, getting herself expelled from each one.

Hannah wins with "The Nightingale" largely because of the tension she writes into the story. At a very dark and uncertain time in Parisian history, we, as the readers, feel that darkness and are afraid of what lurks around the corner for Vianne and Isabelle. And even though we know the ultimate outcome of the historical period, we turn the page to find out "what happens next" for these two women.

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