Book Club: ”The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

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Story: Diane Dean

This is a favorite of book clubs for discussion. The Bookworm Book Club thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and the way Lisa French and Charlotte Priestner handled the discussion.

They set the stage of the French locale with their apparel, which included berets along with little baskets of croissants on our tables. Inside the baskets were the questions for small groups to consider. The first question was, “The Nightingale opens with an intriguing statement: ‘If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. What do you think the narrator means by this?’”

The story is written from the perspective of two sisters, Vianne and Isabel, who were certainly put to the test to find out what they were capable of during World War II. Many of the choices made by the sisters were complicated and their relationship was strained. Their personalities were very different. Vianne was cautious, yet a fierce protector of children. Isabel was impetuous, headstrong, and a fighter. The sisters are presented in a multi-dimensional way that makes them memorable and illustrates the strength of women should not be underestimated.

Another question about which characters moved you, inspired you, or haunted you brought out more characters, some of whom we were glad we did not have to endure ourselves.

The facilitators displayed a small tree, similar to one described in the book, with pieces of cloth tied to it. Vianne did that to memorialize those who died during the difficult years the book covered. Some of the tragedies showed man’s inhumanity to man and the book club members struggled with those situations.

“The Nightingale” has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 77 weeks. We questioned why there is such popularity for the book. Possibly there is a moral imperative to remember and to understand the role women played in many wartime situations. There is history, the story of women’s survival, the love/hate of the sisters; a love conquers all element, and achievement under duress.

The narrator’s identity is concealed until the end to create a bit of mystery. Finally that character states, “Men tell stories, women just get on with it.” The final line in the book is “What’s important are the memories. It touches us and our struggles.”

 


Member Comments 

Two sisters demonstrate extraordinary courage as they face life or death situations daily.
Kathy Porter, Rio Ponderosa

A riveting story of one of the darkest times in history centered around two sisters who exhibit courage and determination to fight “the madness” of Nazi Germany. Kristin Hannah deserves praise in bringing this emotional story to us. You will even cry at the end. I guarantee it!
Gail Feind , Pennecamp

Charming discussion, interesting thoughts, universal themes! Broke into tears and could not control myself when finishing the book even though I was on a train in British Columbia.
Marilyn Fleming, Sanibel

Kristen Hannah makes World War II come alive. It is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.
Anne Uhler, Duval

The world at war is usually a man’s story. What about the women left behind? They need the quiet courage to stand up for family and all humanity.
Beth Hicks, Santiago


About the Author
Kristin Hannah has written more than 20 novels. She is a former lawyer who began writing when her children were young. A previous book, “Firefly Lane,” was also a big seller. The awards “The Nightingale” has received include Best Book Of The Year from Amazon, and People’s Choice Award. The audio version won Audiobook Book Of The Year in fiction. Tri Star Pictures has the novel in development for a movie.

Hannah described the major question she pondered in writing the book, “All of my research led me to a central question: When would I, as a wife and mother, risk my life and my son’s life to save a stranger? Once that was in my head, I knew I had a story worth telling.” And it is a story the book club agreed was a well-written, excellent book.

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