Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Polly Stone
You might like this book if you are interested in yet another story about the intensity of World War 2 and how it affected families and individuals. Also, if you enjoy stories about unlikely heroism and finding strength in the midst of impossible scenarios. 

I don't follow book news very much, so this came to me mostly because it popped up as a recommendation on Audible.com. I haven't read any of the author's other books, but I do like stories about WWII and so I engaged. 

I loved it. My word. There was fist clenching. There were tears. There was anger and relief and heartbreak and joy, but somehow I didn't feel manipulated. It's a longish book, but the story is compelling and the imagery is stunning. Ms. Hannah's use of language and writing craft is excellent, with many passages making me rewind to listen again. If I'd been reading a physical book, I would have underlined in a lot of places. 

It tells the story of a family and how it fell apart, then gradually, over generations, got remade. Yes! My favorite thing to read about--that there is hope after tragedy, that choices trump circumstances, that love is more powerful than hate. Two sisters in France have lost their mother. Their father has sort of lost them. Then, in small moments and large, they lost each other. Because of the war, all the pain in their lives is amplified, but along side that pain, all the little shards of love and familial connection shine out from the rubble and remind the main characters that it's not over. Ever. Overlaid onto this backdrop is a representative story of how so many ordinary people became heroes during the war. Both sisters have this opportunity, and both take it, and in their sacrifices, they find their best selves. It usually works that way. 

I am glad that we have stories like this to help us consider our perspective. War stories can always make a middle class suburban woman like me remember that really, nothing I've ever experienced has had any of the magnitude of a regular day in 1944 France. But at the same time, there is the reminder that some things are universal. I could relate to moments in the story because I feel the same way about my family as the characters.

I recommend this book. It's heartbreaking, intense and tells about some brutal things, but the language and imagery are modulated to leave the most horrific scenes to your own imagination, and I really appreciated that.  

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