Friday, September 4, 2015

The Nightingale ALMOST Lives Up To Its Advance Billing

When I decided to read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, it was after 5 or 6 people told me how good it was.  In fact, my recommenders all gave it a 5/5 (I'm one of the few old-timers who still go on the 4.0 system).  Furthermore in fact, Amazon has a rating of 4.8/5 for 11, 687 reviews.  And Goodreads is 4.53 out of 57, 475 (yes, you read that number correctly) reviews.  Where do I stand?  I'm a bit lower at 3.25/4.  That puts me a shade above 4/5.  That still makes this a solid read for me.  So far this year I have read 45 books. Of those, 9 were 3.5 or above (including Goodnight June at 4.0+ and Edge of Eternity at 4.25).  And of the remaining 36 books, 10 are at 3.25.  So, did I like The Nightingale?  You bet.  Was it in rarefied air?  Not exactly.

Everybody by now knows what this book is about.  But I'll give you a summary from the book flap:  "The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion, and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied war-torn France - a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women."

The summary also points out that "...Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen:  the women's war."

I'll drink Diet Coke to this last part.  It is refreshing to read a story about those left behind during war - especially the women and children.  Turns out that their stories are no less brutal than the soldiers' stories themselves.  But you'll have to read it for yourself to get the details.

What did I like about The Nightingale?  Well, I'll tell you:

1.  It grabbed me from the 1st page.
2.  I liked that it started in 1995, went back to 1939-1945, and did some flip-flopping (with most of the story taking place during the war).  This was similar to Orphan Train.  And you all know what I thought of Orphan Train!
3.  There was a lot of emotion initially and certainly in the end.  In fact, I did some major boohooing in the last chapter.
4.  It told the story of the women and children left behind in France during the war,
instead of just the men's story.
5.  It gave us a look at the dissident, non-soldier women and men who opposed/fought the Germans.

What didn't I like so much?

1.  Throughout the book there were times when certain words and phrases were used over
and over (ironic, don't you think, that I used the word "were" twice in this sentence?).
2.  The book dragged a little for me.
3.  I thought the author beat us over the head with the German atrocities and cruelty - not just with the Jewish families, but with all of the women and children left behind in France. The last 1/3 of the book spent more time with that than the celebration of the heroism of the main characters.  That should have been the main emphasis throughout the entire book.

There's obviously not much that I didn't like.  The slight late dragginess of the book and the emphasis on the camps made it a 3.5 for me.  And the repetition knocked it down another .25.  Ergo, 3.25.  Would I recommend it?  Absolutely.  Are you likely to like it more than me? Probably.  When almost 70,000 people average 4.665, and I'm at a shade above 4.0, then it is extremely likely that most (if not all) of you will disagree with me.  So be it.  You can let me have it.  I can take the blows.



  1. Great and also fair (in the balanced sense) review. I agree on most of your points. Funny that when you said Orphan Train, I was thinking of Orphan's Tale, even though that only came out recently. I did compare the latter to this book.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Melissa. I sure do like stories about WWII that teach us things we didn't already know.