Book Review – The Nightingale

  • Author – Kristin Hannah
  • Publisher – St. Martin’s Press
  • Release Date – February 3rd, 2015
  • Page Count: 440

Suffering is war’s inevitable repercussion. No one, except the ones who suffers in it, knows how to cope with a war like situation. Some stories strike you so deeply that you feel how it might have been and can imagine the pain inflicted upon the people during the war. The Nightingale is that story.

The Nightingale Plot – A Harrowing Tale

War is not only fought on a battlefield, but among people as well. War for identity, war for a place in society, war for the safety of their family, and war for a greater cause. These are just the foundational themes of The Nightingale. (Check out the Goodreads page for The Nightingale here.)

Two sisters must fight for love and their country.

Vienna has always been an obedient girl. A mother of two children who was leading a happy life in the countryside. Not anymore. Britain and France have declared war on Germany, and his husband is sent to fight from France. Meanwhile, a German soldier billets in her house.

Isabella has always been impetuous. She was kicked out of more schools than she can count. She was in the city when the bombs dropped, and towering buildings were crumpled in front of her very eyes.

The novel also has a frame story. In 1995, only one of the sister survived the war and first person narration follows.Book Review - The Nightingale

Characters – An Embodiment of Hope

Vienna and Isabella are two distinct people. Vienna is a simple woman caught in the war, meanwhile Isabella has been a rebel for her life, and she wants to make her voice heard in these gruesome times.

After her husband goes to war, Vienna constantly struggles when the German soldier stays in her house. She couldn’t do anything about it, and she’s too stoic to say anything. She, therefore, keeps her lips sealed and prays for her husband’s return.

Vienna is an astounding character. She constantly surprises with things you could never imagine her doing, and yes, the circumstances are such dire that her actions seem legible, but to see her perform it is just enticing.

A conflict for Vienna is her feelings towards the German. He is not a bad person, but since he is fighting for Germany, it makes him an enemy. She is caught in the dilemma of feelings. Waiting for her husband, while being grateful for the generosity of the enemy.

On the other hand, Isabella is a very active character. She always wants to do something, and when she sees what war has done to the people, she wants to act too. It is in her nature to do so, and we follow Isabella on a journey. Yes, not a story, not a plot, but a journey in the harshest part of the country.

Her motives are made very clear from the beginning, and when you think she has gone too far, she doesn’t stop. Sometimes there seems to be no limit to what Isabella can do, but further, into the story, you look at her as a human, and what happens will either make you uncomfortable enough to close the book, or shrill in fear while sweating.

Both Isabella and Vienna embody one similar trait: hope. They have hope that things will get better, that there will be a time when this struggle will be behind them, and they can start over. It is this hope that keeps them going. They are one of the bravest characters you will meet.

But as Red from The Shawshank Redemption (by Stephen King) has said:

“Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

Oh boy, had it never been so true.


Kristin Hannah brings the war to life. Accurate depiction and minimalist things combined with the events transcending in the plot makes it real. She breathes life into the city of Paris. The simple activities like soldiers marching, people queuing for food, or women screaming are not thrust upon us but cleverly slid into the story, making it more dramatic.

She handles the characters with a certain amount of confidence which is visible from her writing. The plot progression is a bit slow in the beginning, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. There is no unnecessary line. Everything that happens either has a role in the plot or it develops the characters.

The balance between every scene is perfect. Nothing looks overdone or overwritten. She doesn’t exaggerate (for the most part), nor she shies away from the grotesque details. She shows you the worst of war in the worst of situations.

Should you read The Nightingale?

Yes, if you are brave enough.

The Nightingale is not a story for the faint of heart. It is a carefully written and deeply forlorn novel. The characters are living breathing people, and they represent more than their agendas. They represent every single human who has been caught in war and those who had the strength to survive it.

The Nightingale has been slated for a film adaptation from TriStar Pictures with director Michelle MacLaren and producer Elizabeth Cantillon. However, casting dates and filming have yet to be announced.

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About the author

Rohit Meena

Rohit falls sick if he doesn't read. He feels uneducated if he doesn't read, and a single day doesn't go by when he doesn't read.

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