There are good books and there are great books. There are those which make you want to drop everything to just read. There are those which make you forget that the milk is done or that the stove is on. Those that kidnap your senses and take you to a different world altogether. Those which connect with you in ways unimaginable. Those which touch you, leave you pondering long after the last pages were turned. Those which stay with you forever. I read one such book last week. I read 'The Nightingale' by Kristin Hannah. A book which is and does everything I just described and more.
It has been a long time since I did a book review on the blog. But this book, this wonderfully written book, definitely needs a mention. This book warrants that I write down everything I feel about it, save it in this written universe of mine.
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Bravery, courage, fear and love, in a time of war.
Despite their differences, Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger. bolder Isabelle lives in Paris, while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their child. But when the Second World War breaks out and Antoine is conscripted to fight, Isabelle is sent to the country by her father to help Vianne.
As war develops, the strength of sisters' relationship is put to the test. With life changing and confronted by unbelievable horrors, Vianne and Isabelle find themselves responding in ways they never thought possible, as bravery and resistance take differing forms for each of the two sisters.
Vivid and exquisite in its illumination of a time and place defined by atrocity, but also humanity and courage, Kristin Hannah's novel will provoke thought and discussion long after readers turn the final page.
My Thoughts on the book
The Nightingale is a story set in France during the Second World War. It is the tale of two sisters, their fight for survival and of resistance in German-occupied France.
Somehow this book talks to me in so many different ways that I can't even seem to find the right words to express. It wouldn't be far-fetched to say that it has seduced my senses and left me wanting for more.
The story begins with an elderly woman recollecting her past. She starts with these wonderful lines which set the tone for the rest of the book.
In love, we find out who we want to be.
In war, we find out who we are.
We are then taken back to 1939 just before the German occupation of France. From there on you follow the two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, as they live, fight, survive and resist; essentially grow, during one of the most terrible wars in human history.
The first thing I like about the book is that although it is set during World War II, it revolves around women. And this tiny little fact which is so often ignored is, for me, the selling point of The Nightingale. It is what drew me towards it in the first place. Yes, traditionally men fight, are in the firing line, at the borders and take bullets. And when one talks about war, it is almost always from the perspective of men. The women, their lives, and contributions, almost always conveniently forgotten. But we all know that their sacrifices, their part in resisting and fighting the enemy can't be discounted. This book addresses that very area, something which is almost never talked about. Something that reaches somewhere deep within me and binds me to it as a reader.
One of my favorite books, Unbroken, is actually the true story of an American World War II survivor. It is a book which gave me more than a story to think about. For days after reading the book, I felt connected to it as a reader and still do. I remember experiencing a similar kind of satisfaction after reading The Paris Wife though it wasn't about war at all. But these were books to which I connected as a reader on so many different levels. And tell you what, I feel the same kind of joy after reading The Nightingale. Maybe more.
Which character did I like best?
I think both Vianne and Isabelle touched me. At the beginning of the book, these two were so different. But as the book drew to a close, they somehow seemed to become more alike. Brave in their own different ways yet in very much the same. Each resisting the horror in her own way. As the story progressed they seemed to tend towards each other. And maybe it's just me but some of their reactions, actions too, reminded me of myself and my sister.
But still, if you ask, I think I liked Vianne slightly more. She was brave to a whole different level. It is so easy to resist while in hiding. But it takes a lot of courage to stay with the enemy, keeping your head down and then resist, survive and even attempt the extraordinary. It takes more courage to be brave when the lives of your children are at stake. That's Vianne for you and that's why she's my favorite in the book.
The Nightingale is a story of discovery. The sisters found out who they were as individuals and as sisters. They found out who there were alone and together. They found out they were capable of doing things they wouldn't have ever imagined in their wildest of dreams. I had read somewhere that during wars, common men and women come out of their cocoons and perform tasks otherwise deemed impossible or outrageous. The sisters end up enduring and doing something similar.
But the book is not only about Vianne or Isabelle. Each character had an allure, every other character has an allure. Whether Gaetan or Anouk, every character is so intricately woven. Each with so many layers that you feel satisfied at every turn of the page.
Now, this being also a book which sheds light on German atrocities during the war, you would think liking a German character is impossible. But truth be told, I also liked Captain Beck's character a lot. He was the enemy you wanted to like, maybe even love.
Do I recommend the book?
Of course, I do. Very rarely do you come across books that tell you more than just a story. The Nightingale is one. Don't miss out on it!
Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Pan Books
Cost: Rs. 399/-
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Labels: I Review