Book Reviews

The Nightingale

Why I picked this book

Goodreads is a good a place to start as any. They advertise what’s the “in” thing of the year. Or of the month. Of the week. And The Nightingale was everywhere! It’s impossible to miss it. And once I read the blurb…I was hooked.

Two sentences summary

Two sisters go on different journeys during the most difficult time. Both separated by war and connected because of it.

My favorite characters

Do you have to ask? Both of the protagonists! They have different personalities (as to be expected) but I love Isabelle and Vianne.

Isabelle is impulsive. Hardheaded. Immature. Fierce. Unafraid. Brave. She’s the kind of woman we aspire to be. The ideal woman who doesn’t back down from any difficulty or hardship.

Vianne is weak. Needy. Dependent. Careful. Loving. Strong. She’s the kind of woman we want to be with. The woman who think things through. The one who sacrifices and protects.

They are so developed and well created, it’s a wonder not one of them is grabbing too much of the limelight from the other. And even though they are at opposite places at the same time, their scenes are beautifully interwoven and shared through the pages.

My favorite scenes

Isabelle’s impossible attitude in Vianne’s house. All the time the scene plays out, I was as stressed as Vianne. Picture this: A Nazi living with you. A Nazi inside your own house. Who can’t be stressed?! Isabelle being a teenager, coupled with her earlier terrorizing experience, has too much anger inside of her that she cannot see the danger of it exploding! Vianne had to calm her down. Constantly! It was emotionally draining. And you’re also emotionally invested, that’s why I love it.

When Rachel gave Ari to Vianne. Emotionally charging, I was very teary eyed when reading this. I cannot bear to part with my baby. But when you’re in Rachel’s position, you just KNOW that your baby could LIVE. The only way to do it is to give up your baby. It was painful! I don’t know how anyone can bear it. I was already accustomed to Vianne being weak-kneed but that moment, when she reached Rachel’s hands and took Ari in her arms, it made me realize her potential. At that moment, I became strong too. And I wanted that feeling; that hopeful feeling.

Isabelle was given the code name NIGHTINGALE. I didn’t like Isabelle at first. Sure, it wasn’t her fault that she became who she was. Still, I cannot help being furious to her! If there’s any chance to loving her character, give her something to do, please! Then the author gave it! At long last! I was giddy along with Isabelle. Finally! Somewhere to put her excruciating energy. She’s been looking for danger. Now she finally got it. This time, Vianne and her child won’t be implicated. Praise to Juliette Gervaise!

Their father was a spy. This was a great deal to me. PTSD is a reasonable excuse for being a lame dad. His past keeps him from being a good one. He knew he hasn’t done anything right for Rachel and Isabelle. When Isabelle learned that he was serving the Nazis, we can feel Isabelle’s disappointment of how he had become. Infuriating. Disgusted.
For a long time, she has been wanting her father’s love. She’s been trying to earn it and work for it. In the piled up years, she has somewhat accepted her father never becoming the ‘loving and caring’ kind. Still, Isabelle yearns for that certain degree of awe for him. Then, out of blue, he blurts out all the things the Nightingale was doing. He knows. Much more than her. He’s in the ‘resistance’. He’s a spy! A counterfeiter! Starting from there, I begin to understand their father. A complex character, yet someone of worth. Isabelle got the ‘awe’ she needed.

“You just tell my sister that she needs to start being afraid.” I love this line. At this point, Vianne had *spoiler alert* killed Beck (Oh, Beck.) to save her sister. Vianne was at her breaking point and she hadn’t shown as much strength as that instance. I actually loved how mad she was with Isabelle. Isabelle had once again endangered their lives and not knowing the consequences of her blind bravery. Of course, you and I both know that Isabelle truly had no other choice on the matter. Still, you cannot help but feel a sudden hatred for Isabelle. And then, when Isabelle was to be taken away, Vianne showed her vulnerable side. It pained her to hurt Isabelle. Vianne doesn’t want that to be the last thing her sister remembers. It was a heartbreaking moment. It looked like the sisters would never reconcile after what happened. Until then, Isabelle must learn to fear. To be afraid.

Antoine came back! Rejoice! Rejoice! I am very very happy indeed! I love him too. I love that he choose to see miracles. He and Vianne have endured the war. And I love that he doesn’t rub it on her face and says I’ve been in a much hellish place than you have. I’m happy he doesn’t throw that card. He knows it wasn’t easy for her too.

 Ari remembers. Can I just, cry? Like all out,  eye-ball swirl wailing? Mouth open wide, saliva drooping on the side, eye bags clearly forming?

Vianne’s last secret. Oh, it aches my heart when Vianne looks at his son, Julien. The miracle. I really thought that Vianne will tell ALL. But revealing the ultimate secret is too destructive, how ever long ago the situation was. Julien is not to be blamed. Antoine knew that. Vianne knows it still. It doesn’t matter. A tiny omission cannot define a whole life of a person. It shouldn’t. I love Vianne.

What I don’t like

Sarah’s dead! Why oh why?! Why did she have to be a symbolism of some sort?!?! I am Did we make it across the frontier?  I am crying once again!!

Why didn’t Vianne kill that bloody Nazi?!?! Like WTH!?!?! He raped you repeatedly! He threatened you! Ugggh!!!!!!! HE NEEDS TO DIE!

Isabelle died! WTH!!!!! Why!!!! At a very young age, she lost a mother. Her father left her and her sister abandoned her. And she knew how she lost her father again. Can’t you see how deserving she is for a beautiful, looooooong life? With Gaetan? With a person who loves her! She deserves a happy ending!! The Nightingale has done enough for the resistance. She has saved important lives! I cannot believe of making her a martyr to make the book more emotionally driven. I’m already in a roller coaster! Killing her had made me feel pity. Pity of her very accomplished yet short life. She has surpassed all kinds of danger, just to be put down by a bout of sickness. Why?!

They took Daniel/Ari away! Will the crying never stop?!?! I know that the people who are ‘tasked’ to take him away, has a point. But Daniel already has the Sophie, and Vianne, and Antoine. And it hurts that he’s being wrenched out from Vianne’s.

Last words

It’s been a crying fest. Never stopping.

Every bit of emotion becomes a struggle to keep inside. You will feel the hatred, the fear, the despair, the shame, the triumph, and the conclusion. You’ll want to show them all to world! That’s how good this book is. One might say that ‘war’ is always an emotional topic. I agree. We will feel mad about this Germans or pity the victims. Often times we’re just spectators. But seldom can you feel like you’re “in” it. When an author can evoke this sensation in me, it’s an immediate 5 stars. No qualms. No second thoughts.

I just want to share and elaborate about the ending. Because it was a happy ending, in its own way. It’s typical that the end of every war-related books is sort of what’s happening on the “present day” (this is the third book that does it. The Book Thief, All the Light We Cannot See are the other two). However, it didn’t jump to it as fast as lightning. The author gradually tries to move past the war and we see a few moments of okay, what happens next immediately (see the irony? gradually and immediately ?) . We get a little contentment that is deserving. It’s just not enough to point out the war is over and skip decades and decades and decades until our protagonists grow old. We want to see the aftereffects of how the war changed the lives of the people. That…happiness when they hear that the war is over. Add in the mix a healthy dose of a wonderful reunion and that could just about soothe (a tiny bit) after all the years of suffering.

I also like how the ending opposed from the beginning. You see, both our main characters started out as broken girls. Broken from the First World War. They were bitter. There was too much unspoken pain. For the ending, everyone was understanding. Everyone is aware of the pain. Whatever horrific lessons learned from the Second World War, they make do with their continuing lives. Hatred is gone. All’s left is to love.


9 thoughts on “The Nightingale”

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