The Nightingale

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah This book is a visceral experience--powerful, moving and very unsettling. One that leaves you emotionally drained, and knocks you off balance. The haunting images it instills in your mind will stay with you for a few days, maybe more. It'll take another good book to erase them, or maybe a good movie. I'm having trouble getting into my next read. It seems so 'fluffy' compared to this book, even though it isn't or isn't supposed to be.

Nightingale is about two sisters. Isabelle and Vianne, victims of a family torn apart by war and PTSD. How they cope with the family dysfunction are as different as night and day. Abandoned by their father to total strangers, Vianne sought her escape at age 14 with love and marriage. Isabelle fought back with teenage rebellion, and as soon as she is able--running away repeatedly from boarding school, sneaking off to Paris by herself. Despite all her little-disguised attempts at getting attention, the cold, stone shell that is left of her father after WWI remained unmoved. Eventually, Isabelle gets caught up in the resistance movement and plays a major role in it. While Vianne is stuck with a Nazi captain for a roommate. How both of them cope with their respective roles in wartime France covers most of the book: Isabelle as an active player and Vianne as an ordinary civilian struggling day-to-day to survive and scrounge around for the next meal for her daughter.

In another place and time, Vianne would be a perfect suburban soccer mom. But Isabelle is just the risk-taker type who would probably run off with her bf, do drugs, engage in petty crime, and rack up a lengthy rap sheet before 30. But this is wartime France, and Isabelle's boundless energy, reckless and adventurous nature and passion for ex-con Gaetan makes her a perfect recruit for the resistance--fearless but pretty and innocent-looking enough that the authorities would never suspect. The two sisters are estranged throughout most of the book, as are they to their father. The first world war tore them apart. Can the second draw them back together? This book is as much about their complicated relationship as the struggles of the French people for survival under Nazi rule. There is also a very beautiful but subdued love story, that is sadly, so appropriate for the book. And the epilogue--one of the best I've ever read.

It is not everyday that we encounter a book as intense as 'Nightingale'. And that is just as well, because, well, we read to relax, to escape, to clear our minds of our daily worries, even for just a while. But occasionally we NEED something to 'rock our world', so to speak. Something unforgettable that shocks, angers and reduces us to tears. If you've ever needed a book like that, put The Nightingale on your list.

5 stars plus a bit more, if Goodreads would let me.

Now, I'm off to refill my box of tissues.