The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

the Nightingale

Pan |29 January 2015| 5*

The Nightingale, in 2015 was voted a best book of the year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, iTunes, Library JournalPasteThe Wall Street Journal and The Week.  Additionally, the novel won the coveted Goodreads and People’s Choice Awards. The audiobook of The Nightingale won the Audiobook of the Year Award in the fiction category. And I can see why.

Blurb:

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

My thoughts:

The Nightingale is one of the most moving books I’ve read and I was emotionally drained by the end of the story. It tells of two French sisters and their experiences during the occupation of France in the Second World War. The younger sister, Isabelle is beautiful, impetuous and a rebel. She joins the Resistance Movement, whereas Vianne, married,  stays at home looking after her daughter whilst her husband goes off to war.

This is a story of courage, of love and of the determination to survive under dreadful and appalling conditions – the horrors and dilemmas of living in an occupied country under Nazi rule, with rationing, curfews, and the dangers of being caught helping or of being a Resistance fighter. Vianne was faced with the dilemmas of whether to collude with the Nazi officers billeted in her house and whether to help her Jewish friend to escape before she could be taken off to the concentration camps. Isabelle takes desperate risks as she helps British and American airmen to freedom over the Alps to Spain. Hannah spares no details and I struggled to read the details of what people can do to those they consider their enemies.

Interspersed at intervals the narrative moves to 1995 as one of the sisters is invited and goes to a reunion. For a long time I couldn’t decide which one it was and by the time it was revealed I was in tears at the sadness and pathos of it all.

This book is one of my TBRs – a book I’ve owned prior to 1 January 2018.

When I’ve not been reading …

… I’ve been doing jigsaws (amongst other things).

IMG_20180217_165441849.jpg

I’d done both of these Ravensburger puzzles before and put them back in their plastic bags inside the box, but I hadn’t sealed the bags and the pieces had got a bit muddled up. After I’d sorted them out this one was complete.

IMG_20180217_124208187.jpg

But there are two pieces missing from this one – and I can’t find them anywhere!

IMG_20180217_162011071.jpg

They are based on paintings by Alexander Sheridan, who was born in Cape Town and moved with his family when he was five back to Scotland. He has lived in New Zealand, India and Singapore. After his wife died he moved back to London with his young son. He met his second wife whilst hiking in the Outer Hebrides and then set up home on a farm near Ipswich, where he paints landscapes. (Information taken from the box.)

My Friday Post: Wedlock by Wendy Moore

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore, a library book, that my friend recommended to me.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

It begins in London on 13 January 1777:

Settling down to read his newspaper by the candlelight illuminating the dining room of the Adelphi Tavern, John Hull anticipated a quiet evening. Having opened five years earlier, as an integral part of the vast riverside development designed by the Adams brothers, the Adelphi Tavern and Coffee House had established a reputation for its fine dinners and genteel company.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56

It should have proved a memorable occasion, summoning up reminiscences of the royal wedding just six years earlier. Yet by the time that Mary walked down the aisle of St George’s Church in Hanover Square, splendidly robed in her silver and white wedding dress, on her eighteenth birthday on 24 February 1767, her teenage infatuation was over. She knew she was marrying the wrong man.

Described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘ Splendid … as gripping as any novel’ this is non-fiction, the biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes who was the richest heiress in 18th century Britain. She fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney. When Mary heard her gallant hero was mortally wounded in a duel fought to defend her honour, she felt she could hardly refuse his dying wish to marry her.

I’ll be reading this book soon. What do you think? Does it tempt you too?

Victoria: A Life by A. N. Wilson

I finished reading Victoria: A Life at the end of January with a sense of sadness that it was over – I’d been reading it for three months and I have learned so much and enjoyed it immensely. Victoria was 81 when she died and had been Queen for nearly 64 years, from 1837 to 1901. She’d had 9 children and was grandmother of 42.

A. N. Wilson’s biography of Victoria is masterful, detailed and like all good biographies is well researched and illustrated, with copious notes, an extensive bibliography and an index. He had access to the Royal Archives and permission from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to quote from materials in royal copyright. He portrays her both as a woman, a wife and mother as well as a queen set against the backdrop of the political scene in Britain and Europe.

Whilst I was reading I wrote three posts about different aspects of the book that interested me at the time – one on my thoughts soon after I started reading the biography, one on Christmas at Windsor in 1860 and one on Victoria and John Brown.

And now I’ve finished it I’m not sure what to write about it. It has fascinated me and surprised me. It surprised me because it is so extensive, with so much about her involvement in the politics of the time. It has made me want to know more about so many of the people – such as Lord Melbourne, Gladstone, who she disliked so much that when he stayed at Balmoral she wouldn’t speak to him, Disraeli who she liked very much and of course her beloved Albert.

I think A.N.Wilson himself sums it up best in this quotation:

‘Writing about Queen Victoria has been one of the most joyous experiences of my life. I have read thousands (literally) of letters never before published, and grown used to her as to a friend. Maddening? Egomaniac? Hysterical? A bad mother? Some have said so. What emerged for me was a brave, original woman who was at the very epicentre of Britain’s changing place in the world: a solitary woman in an all-male world who understood politics and foreign policy much better than some of her ministers; a person possessed by demons, but demons which she was brave enough to conquer. Above all, I became aware, when considering her eccentric friendships and deep passions, of what a lovable person she was.’ A. N. Wilson

and in the last paragraph of the book he wrote of Victoria’s greatness and the awe awe she inspired:

The awe is for Queen Victoria the woman. Step over the carpet to that plump little figure that sits at her table, state papers or a Hindustani grammar open in front of her, the Munshi or Princess Beatrice at her side. You are approaching someone of great kindliness, someone of a far sharper intelligence than you would have guessed, and someone who – contrary to the most tedious of all the clichés about her – was easily amused. but you are also, if you have your wits about you, more than a little afraid. You are in the presence of greatness. (page 575)

This was going to be my last post about the book, but I have placed so many markers in places of interest to me as I read that I think I may do at least one more just of passages that I’d like to remember.

IMG_20180215_101313191_HDR.jpg

My Week in Books: 14 February 2018

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

IMG_1384-0

A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now:

I’m reading three books:

the NightingaleThe Midnight line51IBFwYPBfL

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, historical fiction beginning in 1995 in Oregon it moves back to France during World War Two. See yesterday’s post for the first paragraph and a teaser. I’ve read nearly half the book.

The Midnight Line by Lee Child, a Jack Reacher thriller. See this post for the first paragraph. Jack Reacher, a former military policeman, is looking for the owner of a West Point class ring from 2005. The search takes him to the deserted wilds of Wyoming.

Munich by Robert Harris, set in 1938, a year before the start of World War Two during the four days of the 1938 Munich Conference. I’m only at the beginning of this book.

Then:

The last book I finished is The Secret Vanguard by Michael Innes, a Golden Age mystery first published in 1940 and published last October as an e-book.  It’s the fifth in his Inspector Appleby series. See this post for my review.

Next:

I think it will most likely be Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman:

Blurb (Amazon):

When an elderly recluse discovers a corpse on his land, Officer Henry Farrell follows the investigation to strange places in the countryside, and into the depths of his own frayed soul.

In Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, secrets and feuds go back generations. The lone policeman in a small township on the sparse northern border, Henry Farrell expected to spend his mornings hunting and fishing, his evenings playing old-time music. Instead, he has watched the dual encroachment of fracking companies and drug dealers bring money and troubles to the area. As a second body turns up, Henry’s search for the killer opens old wounds and dredges up ancient crimes which some people desperately want to keep hidden.

With vivid characters and flawless pacing, Tom Bouman immerses readers in this changing landscape. In these derelict woods, full of whitetail deer and history, the hunt is on…

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

My Tuesday Post: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker. Post two sentences from somewhere in a book you’re reading. No spoilers, please! List the author and book title too.

My first paragraph this week is from The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which I’m currently reading. It’s one of my TBRs.

The Nightingale: Bravery, Courage, Fear and Love in a Time of War

It begins:

April 9, 1995 – The Oregon Coast

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. Today’s young people want to know everything about everyone. They think that talking about a problem will solve it. I come from a quieter generation. We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.

Beginning in 1995 this novel moves back in time to the start of the Second World War to France.

Here is a teaser from page 88:

Vianne’s anger dissolved; without it, she felt inexpressibly tired. This essential difference had always been between them. Vianne the rule follower and Isabelle the rebel. Even in girlhood, in grief, they had expressed their emotions differently.

Blurb:

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

I’ve read nearly half the book so far and am really enjoying it, but I’m not sure yet about the identity of the narrator in the opening chapter – which sister is it? I keep changing my mind about it. Please don’t tell me if you know – that would be a such a spoiler …

Force of Nature by Jane Harper: Blog Tour

I was delighted when Kimberley from Little, Brown Book Group UK asked me to be part of the blog tour for the hardback release of Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

Little, Brown Book Group UK |8 February 2018 |Review copy |4*

Blurb (Publishers):

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

My thoughts:

I’ve never been on a team building exercise like this one in Force of Nature – thank goodness! This one for employees of an accountancy firm, BaileyTennants is a really bad one – two groups, five men and five women with no experience of hiking are sent out into the outback, on their own, for a few days. The only training they were given was a half-day course in navigation for one member of each team. And they weren’t allowed to take their phones with them. Inevitably the worst happened – the women’s group got lost and when they eventually returned one person, Alice Russell, was missing.

Once I had got over my disbelief that such a terrible team building exercise would actually happen, this is fiction after all, I found that I loved this book, set in the fictional Giralang Ranges in Australia, seeing the Mirror Falls roaring down from a cliff edge into the pool fifteen metres below, the eucalyptus trees and the dense bush, and the breathtaking views of rolling hills and valleys as the gum trees give way,  with the sun hanging low in the distance.

In fact I soon became completely absorbed in the mystery of what happened to Alice. The narrative moves between two different time periods that gradually merge into one. The descriptions of both the locations and the characters are wholly convincing – it was as though I was there in the bush, with the women struggling to get back on course and find their way back to the rendezvous point. I could feel their frustration and fear of the elements and whatever danger was out there in the bush, as their food and water ran out and they struggled desperately to survive. Their relationships, not good at the start, rapidly deteriorate as underlying jealousies and resentments come out into the open and results in violence.

Equally convincing is the search party, with Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his colleague Carmen Cooper from the financial investigation unit in Melbourne. They were involved in the search because Alice, the missing woman, was a whistle blower, helping them to uncover an elaborate money-laundering scheme run by BaileyTennants, the company that employs her and the other women.

It’s as much a character study as it is a mystery. Alice is a very unpopular person and any one of the other women could have been responsible for her disappearance. The tension and suspense is carried through to the end – an end that I thought I’d worked out, but of course I hadn’t got it right.

This is the second of Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk’s novels. The first is The Dry, which I haven’t read yet. So I was pleased to find that Force of Nature works very well as a standalone book. There are a few references to what I think must have happened in The Dry, but nothing that gave away the plot of that  book. I’ll definitely read The Dry as soon as possible now.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

Amazon UK link

About the Author

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. Force of Nature is Jane’s second novel. Janeharper.com.au.

And do check out the other blogs taking part in this tour today:

Force of Nature