Book Chat: The Nightingale | Kristin Hannah

**WARNING: This is for people who have already read this book. There will be spoilers! If you do not want the book’s wonderful surprises to be ruined, read my review of the book, read the book, then come back to read our chat. Thank you!**

Amber: So I want to start out by saying that I usually do not like historical fiction books. I have read a lot of World War 2 stories, and sometimes it can feel redundant, but this was different. I thought it was more about bravery and how that can be portrayed in different ways. Isabelle is originally known as being immature, but she is quickly seen as being very brave. Whereas Vianne does not think of herself is brave at all until the very end. What is your opinion of the two sisters and their transformation throughout the book? 

Jenny: I love historical fiction especially WW2 and I agree it can feel redundant. Most of the time the female characters are brave because they hid Jewish people from the Nazis. I had a hard time getting started on this book because it did feel the same as lots of other books. I agree that the sisters were really brave especially Isabelle crossing the mountains with the downed pilots. I didn’t like the way the author forwarded to modern time. It seemed to come out of nowhere.

Amber: What did you think of the love story with Gaetan? At first, was so mad at him when he left Isabelle. But later I realized that it was what helped her direct her rebelliousness into something impactful.

Renee: I was upset at first but when she draws on that poster I thought it was either him or that he would be in the room. Then when that didn’t happen I just knew she would somehow reunite with him when she went to Paris. I will say too that I thought she was the one who was in the present (and had ended up with Gaetan) all the way up until the very end.

Amber: I was hoping that it was her in the present, but I think that would have made this story too perfect. The ending did seem to make everything come together a little too easy, but I thought it was a decent way to wrap everything up. I think Isabelle had to die in the story. I have read too many stories like this where the person about to die gets rescued from the concentration camp at the last second and ends up surviving. Plus, I think she was able to get some resolution before her death with her sister and Gaetan. I’m not sure that she could have lived a normal life after all that happened to her. I think she could have lived after the concentration camps, but I don’t think she could have lived a life without adventure. She was so used to hiding and running. She would have craved that, even after the war.

Renee: Yes, that would have made the story perfect. I’m an eternal optimist and a hopeless romantic so I always root for the happy ending. I think you’re right, though. She craved adventure even before the war and she would have never been content with a quiet life. But that doesn’t mean if she had lived that she couldn’t have found something adventurous or fulfilling to do afterward.

Amber: That’s true. Her and Gaetan could have traveled the world together. How did you feel about the relationship between Isabelle and the first Nazi in her house? And why do you think she felt guilty about even thinking about him, but was able to sacrifice her body for the other Nazi? Was it because one act was selfish and the other was selfless?

Renee: That had me really conflicted. Not only was he the enemy but they were both married. He protected her as much as he could but part of me feels like it was an act because of how things ended. I don’t think you can even call what happened with the second Nazi sacrifice of her body. It was rape. She had no choice. It was life or death and she was protecting her children.

Amber: Yeah, I appreciated him trying to protect her, but I think he was feeling pressured by his superiors to do things that he didn’t really want to do.

Rebecca: This might be random, but one of my favorite parts (or, at least, one of the parts that moved me the most) of the book was the part when Vianne and Antoine agree to never talk about what happened while they were separated during the war. I guess when you experience something that traumatic, the only way to grasp what little opportunity you have left for a happy, carefree life is just to let go. What did you guys think of that part – when they decided what they needed to do was not “forget,” but “remember”? It was really disheartening that when they were finally reunited, they felt like they were strangers.

Renee: As someone who has a husband in the military who deploys often and has been shot on a deployment before I actually didn’t understand that part. The stranger part, yes I get. But not the not talking about things part. For us, reintegration involves talking about our time apart before we then move on and leave the bad parts behind.

Rebecca: Yeah…I did wonder how it was possible for them to do that. Even though the details were ugly and horrible, I’d feel weird not sharing them with the person I was married to.

Renee: For us sharing those things that were experienced while the other person was away, even if they’re hard, is part of how we reconnect.

Amber: That’s very interesting. I could understand why she wouldn’t want to tell him about the rape and the baby not being his. But he seemed to kind of know anyway.

Renee: I think she felt shame and guilt like it was her fault, which is common for rape victims. So while I wanted her to tell him, I understood why she didn’t. It was also a different time back then when things like that weren’t as understood, so that’s a factor as well.

Amber: Do you think that the father sacrificing himself for Isabelle at the end was enough to make up for his coldness towards his daughters throughout their lives?

Rebecca: That part broke my heart. I think it definitely made up for any coldness, but at the same time, I don’t think Isabelle at all wanted her father to make that kind of sacrifice. If anything, now she’ll have to live with the image of her father dying forever.

Renee: I think it definitely helped Isabelle find closure at the end. I’m not sure about Vianne since she had closed him off immediately and only saw him briefly at the end.

Rebecca: It felt so insane to me that at that moment people thought the idea of a woman being the nightingale was ridiculous. That they didn’t believe her.

Renee: Yeah, but it was way different times back then.

Amber: Didn’t the author say at one point that men took all the credit for the war?

Renee: I think so, but I don’t remember.

Rebecca: Ooo, I forgot about that Amber. Good point. I definitely think that was a reoccurring theme.

Amber: So, I guess I should ask: overall opinion of the book? Would you recommend it to someone else?

Rebecca: Really sad, but really captivating. I’d definitely recommend it. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I got about a quarter way through, I was hooked.

Renee: It was definitely one of those books that lingers after your done with it. I would recommend it.

Rebecca: I don’t cry during books often, but I definitely cried a few times during this…

Amber: This book reminded me a lot of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. But I thought The Storyteller was much more depressing, even though it didn’t make me cry. I guess I just felt more invested in The Nightingale’s characters, and I was rooting for them a lot more. I also feel like this book had a lot more hope. The Storyteller just left me feeling…icky (for lack of a better word).

Jenny: I enjoyed it although it took me a while to get into the story. Vianne did say something near the end about the men getting all the credit for the war or being the heroes. I think it was when she was talking to her son. The ending was a little bit of a surprise. I would recommend it to people who like historical fiction.
Amber: Thanks, ladies! I am looking forward to next month’s book chat!

Have something to say? Feel free to comment below to add to our discussion!

Do you agree? Disagree?