The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
(Macmillan Audio, 2015)
Read by Polly Stone
This title is a nominee in the 2016 Audie Awards: Fiction Category
From Goodreads: “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.”
Vianne and Isabelle are perfectly positioned to give us a unique view of life in France during WWII. Perhaps a little too perfectly positioned – there’s something a tad constructed about this novel. It’s expository and at times reminiscent of a history lesson, and I felt at a remove from every secondary character as well as, often, the protagonists. This was an extremely popular novel across several genres, so it’s entirely possible I was coming at it with elevated expectations.
Polly Stone is a reliably listenable narrator, and I always appreciate her grasp of pace and tone. Her voice is sometimes on the breathy side, but her confidence and cadence outrank any other issues.