Book Discussion – The Nightingale
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
About the Author – Kristin Hannah is an American author who published her first novel in 1991. Before pursuing her interest in writing (a result of encouragement from her late mother), she practiced law and worked in an advertising agency. It wasn’t until she was placed on bed rest during her first pregnancy that she began to seriously consider a career in writing. Her first book was a collaboration she had started with her mother before her death. In 2009, she became a household name with the bestseller, Firefly Lane.
About the Book – Two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during World War II choose different paths to survive the harsh realities of war. One sister must find a way to protect her and her daughter from the Nazis that move into her town while her husband fights for France. The other, younger sister ventures to Paris to join the rebellion and prove her worth. Their stories of love and loss intertwine throughout the novel as they each discover themselves and the strength within them.
1.What were your first impressions of the two sisters? Did you identify more with one than the other?
- I much more strongly identified with Vianne at first and felt she was the levelheaded, reasonable, type of person that I would be in the same situation. Isabelle actually annoyed me as I first got to know her, with her constant disrespect for authority and impetuous actions.
2.Do you think Vianne did enough to rebel against the Nazis by saving the Jewish children or is there more she could have done during the years of Nazi occupation?
- This is a tough question to answer without sounding judgmental since I cannot know how I would react in those circumstances. My first instinct is to say that she could have saved more lives or done more to hinder the Nazis if she hadn’t been so naive or scared. However, those Jewish children would not be alive without her and she managed to keep her own daughter safe throughout the entire war. These are certainly amazing accomplishments.
3.Did you realize it was Vianne who was telling the entire story? What facts/feelings gave away that it was her and not Isabelle?
- The thought that it was Vianne lingered in my subconscious, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. It hit me extremely hard when I found out that Isabelle died the day that Gaetan came back. I was heartbroken and sobbing on my couch as I read the last few pages. Hopefully that wasn’t just me…haha.
4.What parts from the book stood out to you the most or lingered with you after reading?
- Regular life in Nazi-occupied territory – I guess I had similar thoughts as Vianne when the Nazis first arrived. I assumed daily life did not change a whole lot for the ordinary citizens. How wrong we both were. The descriptions of cold winters, lack of food, sheltering officers, and the ever increasing brutality which the Nazis showed towards women, children, and certainly the Jews was astonishing.
- Isabelle’s first trek over the mountain – The first trip was a turning point for me in my view of Isabelle. I think her physical and mental strength and the encouragement she provided the airmen during this ordeal was key to her character development. What an incredible amount of bravery and determination.
Answer the questions or add your own thoughts about The Nightingale in the comments!
I was really struck by Isabelle’s first trip over the mountains as well. The descriptions of survival and the psychological impact of a trip like that were really powerful. I wrote a review of this book on my blog recently as well — feel free to check it out here if you’re interested!
Thanks for sharing… Heading over there now!
I loved this book, and I’m glad you shared the author’s backstory, I hadn’t heard that! I’m off to put Firefly Lane on hold now….
It was useful for me to research! I hadn’t heard of that book either, but it sounds like a good read. Let me know what you think!