I’ve been extremely lucky of late, the past two reviews have been stand out books for me and thankfully the streak continues with the Nightingale. I had heard a lot of rave reviews about this book and can happily say that they are well deserved and this book definitely lives up to the hype. This book destroyed me leaving me bawling my eyes out after consuming it within a day.
Two very different sisters living in France as World War II breaks out. They each have to fight their own battles and show bravery in different forms while trying to survive in a dangerous time. Both sisters are chalk and cheese and at the beginning of the story you learn that each of them have their own (distinctly polar opposite) flaws than verge on annoying in the first half of the book. I found myself at times feeling frustrated at both characters and sympathising with the other one, one of the important themes of the book. The sisters try to learn to understand and support each other but struggle because of their differences. Both of their characters develop as the war presses on and the character growth in both of the amazing women is beautiful and heart breaking. You come to truly love both Vianne and Isabelle for their differences, their flaws, their life lessons and their hopes.
The book demonstrates how life goes on even during war. Love blossoms, friendships strengthen, children grow and people change. In fact these feelings and situations are almost heightened because of the war and the desperation in trying to cling to something good and pure. I loved the changes in perspective throughout the story allowing you to step in to the shoes of multiple characters. I also loved the shift from present day to the past. Where the story was heading was a mystery you were constantly solving. Hannah created some memorable characters all of whom were not black and white but shades of grey. No one was perfect, no one was wholly good or evil (well, except one arguably) and all this was constantly changing through the story. I finished the story caring desperately about the sisters and hoping impossibly for a happy ending.
This story joins The Book Thief and All The Light We Cannot See as a truly memorable historical fiction set during World War II. I have not been left destroyed and crying by a book in a long time and I (predictably) give The Nightingale five beautiful birds for a book I could not put down.