I read this book from a recommendation and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I have never been a huge historical fiction person, but I really enjoyed this story and got to a point where I couldn’t put it down. I even ended up purchasing the book after my library borrow time had expired and I hadn’t quite finished the book yet.
I was not the best history student in school and didn’t retain much about World War II which made me look up a lot while reading this book. It’s fictional in the individual stories but the history is accurate and I genuinely learned more about the war and how truly devastating it was. I obviously knew it was tragic, but didn’t fully grasp the personal stories outside of those in camps. In school you don’t really get to hear about personal stories, what you learn are mostly general, broad ideas and timelines.
Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale follows the personal stories of two sisters living in World War II occupied France. One sister, Vianne, and her young daughter are living in a small town that becomes host to several Nazi captains, one of which requisitions her household while her husband heads to the front line. The other, Isabelle, continues her teenage rebellious tendencies and joins the resistance determined to undermine the Nazi regime and operate right under their noses.
The best element of the book was the emotional tone that came through and made the narrative so engaging. It was the two personal stories that made it great. I felt for the characters and every up and down they had. I felt the emotions they were feeling and that’s what kept me reading nonstop for hours on end. I didn’t want to put it down because I had to know what was next and I think that quality in a book is a sign of a great author.
I think many authors can go wrong when writing fictional novels that are based on major historical events. I think there is a fine balance to writing the history and writing your own story. I’ve been afraid to read historical fiction because I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a textbook that drones on and on about the facts. I’d much rather have a story that plays into the facts of the event or time period with personal stories that are easy to follow and that the reader can latch on to.
I also think it’s important in these types of novels to really develop the characters and illustrate how they are reacting to the events transpiring around them. If you don’t have an interesting character then it’s going to feel like a textbook with little to no emotion. I think the best stories about historical tragedies encompass the heartache, the struggle and the thinking or decision making of a character living through that tragedy. And I think Hannah did that with not just one character but two very well. I also find it really enthralling because the two characters are females that are dealing with having to become strong individuals. It’s a bit different than other WW2 novels too because the majority of the ones I’ve seen or read about focus on the soldiers at war or those imprisoned in camps. This story was different and I think that’s why I chose to read it.
Overall, I was very happy reading this book and pleasantly surprised about how I couldn’t put it down despite it not being a genre I usually gravitate towards. I’ve started to recommend it to others because it is a fantastic historical fiction read and I hope those that I’ve recommended it to enjoyed it as much as I did.
In honor of World Book Day I want to give my top five book recommendations. I could recommend a long list of books but these are five that I find to be great reads for anyone. I realized just the other day that I ask people for book recommendations a lot and I’m always grateful for whatever gets recommended so I might as well return the favor out into the universe. I’m definitely not a genre-specific reader, I generally like most out there and will pretty much read anything.
Here are five of my top book recommendations:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic is by far one of my favorite reads. I just love the story and the writing style of Fitzgerald. I read the book in high school for the first time and then had to read it again when I was in college for my comparative literature class. When I was in high school I definitely didn’t appreciate the story and the poetic depiction of the 1920s. When I read it again I just couldn’t believe how dense and unappreciative I was the first time reading it. Needless to say I still pick it up from time to time to read just for fun.
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This is the newest addition to my favorites list. I just read it a few months ago from a recommendation and after struggling just a little to get into the story I quickly fell into the lives of the characters and couldn’t put the book down. I just loved the way it was written with historical accuracy and true emotion. I will be writing a book review for The Nightingale soon so stay tuned for that post.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another read from when I was younger that I actually enjoyed and appreciated at the time. If I remember correctly I actually read this book when I was probably too young to understand it completely but read it again when I was in high school right before the movie adaptation came out. It’s just one of those books that I really enjoyed because of the seemingly normal story that isn’t as normal as you think in the beginning. The story definitely parallels modern ideology and I think that’s what I liked about it most. It’s the similarities in stories that reflect the story of modern life in unconventional ways that make them relatable and hard to put down.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One of my favorite books and surprisingly also one of my favorite book-to-film adaptations. I love a good mystery/drama and this one just tops my list. It’s a great twist and turn type of novel that certainly keeps you on your toes chapter after chapter. It’s a suspenseful story that you can’t stop reading.
The Poet by Michael Connelly
I absolutely love Michael Connelly’s writing and his large collection of novels. My first taste of Connelly’s books was The Poet. I think I first picked it up at the library and read it and really, really enjoyed it. I knew I liked crime novels because there’s a mystery that as a reader, I always try to figure out before I finish the book. Connelly’s writing usually keeps me guessing until the very end. I specifically resonated with this novel because it’s the introduction of a new character to Connelly’s world of crime. Instead of the original perspective of detective Bosch, it’s from the perspective of a reporter that covers the local beat in Denver. Always a great read and I hope he keeps writing so I can keep reading.
Of course there are many more books that I could recommend and a fair few series *cough, cough Harry Potter*. I’m also always open to recommendations. I find myself gravitating more towards fiction crime/suspense and then fantasy which can arguably be placed at two ends of the spectrum but alas, I still like reading any type of genre. There are more than 130 million published novels in this world and it’s honestly a shame there isn’t enough time in a life to read them all.
As always, stay tuned for more posts and more book reviews.