This book was on my summer must-read list and was the first one I tackled :) It was pretty much the opposite of a light beach read, in the best possible way!
Yes, this is a long book but I promise you it’s worth it! I fell in love with the two main characters, Isabel and Vianne, and I devoured the book.
Maybe it was because I find WWII so interesting, maybe it was because I have an older sister and can relate to sister-sister relationship, or maybe (most likely) it was because it was so beautifully written!
To get you up to speed, here’s the Goodreads summary:
FRANCE, 1939 – In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.
Now, if you have not read the book yet, stop reading here and come back once you’ve finished :)
This will not be a book you quickly forget, if ever. The story of these two women is breathtaking, courageous, scary, and inspiring. Vianne was beyond humble, which I think comes with motherhood during WWII. Isabelle was an opinionated “rebel”, always fighting for the under dog even at such a young age.
I’m not going to lie, a few tears were shed over Daniel/ Ari when he was taken away from Vianne… then a few more tears when he met her at the Nightingale reunion.
I loved this book just as much as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (if you have not read this book, pick it up immediately). They are quiet different, but both have strong main female characters finding their role in WWII.
This novel sparked so many questions while I was reading: Would I ever have been able to break the rules like Isabel or Vianne? Would I be able to lie to family members and loved ones like Isabelle? Would I have accepted special treatment from a German billeting at my home? Would I have stayed as strong as Vianne did while waiting for her husband to return from war? Would I have told my son who his real father was?
Here are the authors discussion questions which will really get your book club discussion started! I wish so badly this was a book we read for my Beltway Book Club. I would have loved to hear everyone’s opinions and views on some to these tough, moral dilemmas the characters encountered.
I can’t stress enough how amazing, well written, and moving I found this novel. Only towards the last 10% of the book when there were some intense rape and torture scenes did I have to skim slightly to keep from having nightmares. But those things were and are still part of war. When I read the book I truly felt I was climbing the mountains beside Isabelle. I felt like I was the Nightingale.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5!
What did you think of the book? Did you love it as much as I did?