The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (Mommy and Me Book Club)

Thanks for joining my “Mommy and Me” Book Club. I hope you’re enjoying my ongoing “stay in bed and read” series. See my thoughts on the previous book, The Paris Secret by Karen Swan.

Title:  The Nightingale (reprint edition 2017)

Author:  Kristin Hannah

Page No.:  608 pages

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

Price: $11.59 (paperback)

Genres:  fiction; historical fiction, WWII

Summary:

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

France, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences. (From Goodreads)

Quotable Quotes:

On Death

“Once you’ve decided to die, the plan gets easy.”

On Fatherhood

“It is not biology that determines fatherhood. It is love.”

On French Food

“We are outside again, walking, when he takes a bite and stops dead. ‘Wow,’ he says after a minute. Then, ‘Wow,’ again. I smile. Everyone remembers their first taste of Paris. This will be his.”

On Grief

“I know that grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.”

On Imperfect Parents

“I loved you both with all of my damaged heart.”

On Love

“Love. It was the beginning and end of everything, the foundation and the ceiling and the air in between. It didn’t matter that she [Isabelle] was broken and ugly and sick. He loved her and she loved him. All her life she had waited—longed for—people to love her, but now she saw what really mattered. She had known love, been blessed by it.”

On Motherhood

“I am a mother and mothers don’t have the luxury of falling apart in front of their children, even when they are afraid, even when their children are adults.”

On Sins of Omission

“Vianne didn’t hesitate. She knew now that no one could be neutral—not anymore—and as afraid as she was of risking Sophie’s life, she was suddenly more afraid of letting her daughter grow up in a world where good people did nothing to stop evil, where a good woman could turn her back on a friend in need. She reached for the toddler, took him in her arms.”

On WWII Women

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”

Worth Staying Up Late For (after the kids have gone to bed?): 

  • Yes, Stay Up Late!
  • Maybe, But See What’s on TV First.
  • No, Go to Bed!

Hannah’s novel is an important reminder that imperfect parents (in an imperfect world) make great kids. The novel presents all kinds of parents (and their children) – Vianne and Antoine Mauriac (Sophie and Julien), Julien Rossignol (Vianne and Isabelle), “Vianne’s German” Wolfgang Beck and Hilda (two children back in Germany), and Rachel and Marc de Champlain (Sarah and Ariel “Ari”, “Daniel Mauriac”). You see that most moms and dads do the best they can with what they have and love their children with all of their hearts – no matter how damaged they may be. Even in the worst of times, children grow in spite of their parents and survive, sometimes even thrive.

Ask yourselves a crucial question: what would you do in similar circumstances? How big is your brave?

Would you endanger your family by helping others like Vianne and Isabelle? Or, would you collaborate with the Nazis if it meant protecting and providing for you and your family, but betraying your own people?

And, if you’re really brave, ask yourselves the most important question of all: ‘Why is God ‘silent on this matter [WWII; the Holocaust]?'” (Hannah 29.422)

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