Kristin Hannah’s ‘The Nightingale’ Is A Hauntingly Poignant Tale
William Wordsworth once said, "Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future."
These words set the stage for two resilient sisters separated by beliefs and circumstance. Each must survive the German occupation in war torn France during World War II in Kristin Hannah's latest novel The Nightingale.
Hannah blends historical facts and character temperament seamlessly in this novel. Readers learn of the youthful, passionate Isabelle while admiring Vianne's inner strength and fortitude, despite the many obstacles thrust into their paths.
Hannah crafts Isabelle and Vianne's personalities and showcases their differences with so much emotion and grace, readers will feel as if they have discovered long lost relatives from their family tree, the kind one could be very proud of and aspire to be like.
Throughout the novel, World War II casts a bleak shadow over everyone, and the sense of loss is felt by all. Hannah crafts scenes of wartime brutality and sacrifice with such dignity and respect this reader was brought to tears.
When Isabelle witnesses her father's death by firing squad, she is overcome with emotion. She then realizes "he was trying to make it up to her, asking her forgiveness and seeking redemption all at once, sacrificing himself for her. It was a glimpse of who he'd once been, the poet her maman had fallen in love with. That man, the one before the war, might have known another way, might have found the perfect words to heal their fractured past. But he wasn't that man anymore. He had lost too much, and in his loss, he'd thrown more away. This was the only way he knew to tell her he loved her." (373)
No one understands the risk of taking chances better than the one who is willing to do so. Nevertheless, Kristin Hannah paints a vivid, emotionally searing portrait of the choices made, and the lives forever changed by two women tenacious enough to follow their heart, soul and mind in The Nightingale.
By Kristin Hannah
438 pps. St. Martin's Press. $27.99.