The Nightingale: A Novel

The Nightingale: A Novel

by Kristin Hannah


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312577223
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/03/2015
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 12,285
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)
Lexile: HL740L (what's this?)

About the Author

Kristin Hannah is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the The Nightingale, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Michelle MacLaren. Her latest novel is The Great Alone, set in Alaska. Hannah is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Firefly Lane, Winter Garden, Night Road, Fly Away, and Home Front, which has been optioned for film by 1492 Films (producers of the Oscar-nominated film The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to write, produce, and direct. She is the mother of one son and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest.

Read an Excerpt


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 talking

about a problem will solve it. I come from a quieter generation. We

understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.

Lately, though, I find myself thinking about the war and my past, about

the people I lost.


It makes it sound as if I misplaced my loved ones; perhaps I left them

where they don’t belong and then turned away, too confused to retrace

my steps.

They are not lost. Nor are they in a better place. They are gone. As I

approach the end of my years, I know that grief, like regret, settles into

our DNA and remains forever a part of us.

I have aged in the months since my husband’s death and my diagnosis.

My skin has the crinkled appearance of wax paper that someone has tried

to flatten and reuse. My eyes fail me often— in the darkness, when headlights

flash, when rain falls. It is unnerving, this new unreliability in my

vision. Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking backward. The past has a

clarity I can no longer see in the present.

I want to imagine there will be peace when I am gone, that I will see all

of the people I have loved and lost. At least that I will be forgiven.

I know better, though, don’t I?

My house, named The Peaks by the lumber baron who built it over a hundred

years ago, is for sale, and I am preparing to move because my son

thinks I should.

He is trying to take care of me, to show how much he loves me in this

most difficult of times, and so I put up with his controlling ways. What do

I care where I die? That is the point, really. It no longer matters where I

live. I am boxing up the Oregon beachside life I settled into nearly fifty

years ago. There is not much I want to take with me. But there is one


I reach for the hanging handle that controls the attic steps. The stairs

unfold from the ceiling like a gentleman extending his hand.

The flimsy stairs wobble beneath my feet as I climb into the attic, which

smells of must and mold. A single, hanging lightbulb swings overhead. I pull

the cord.

It is like being in the hold of an old steamship. Wide wooden planks

panel the walls; cobwebs turn the creases silver and hang in skeins from

the indentation between the planks. The ceiling is so steeply pitched that

I can stand upright only in the center of the room.

I see the rocking chair I used when my grandchildren were young, then

an old crib and a ratty- looking rocking horse set on rusty springs, and the

chair my daughter was refinishing when she got sick. Boxes are tucked

along the wall, marked “Xmas,” “Thanksgiving,” “Easter,” “Halloween,”

“Serveware,” “Sports.” In those boxes are the things I don’t use much anymore

but can’t bear to part with. For me, admitting that I won’t decorate a

tree for Christmas is giving up, and I’ve never been good at letting go.

Tucked in the corner is what I am looking for: an ancient steamer trunk

covered in travel stickers.

With effort, I drag the heavy trunk to the center of the attic, directly

beneath the hanging light. I kneel beside it, but the pain in my knees is

piercing, so I slide onto my backside.

For the first time in thirty years, I lift the trunk’s lid. The top tray is full

of baby memorabilia. Tiny shoes, ceramic hand molds, crayon drawings

populated by stick figures and smiling suns, report cards, dance recital


I lift the tray from the trunk and set it aside.

The mementos in the bottom of the trunk are in a messy pile: several

faded leather- bound journals; a packet of aged postcards, tied together

with a blue satin ribbon; a cardboard box, bent in one corner; a set of slim

books of poetry by Julien Rossignol; and a shoebox that holds hundreds of

black- and- white photographs.

On top is a yellowed, faded piece of paper.

My hands are shaking as I pick it up. It is a carte d’identité, an identity

card, from the war. I see the small, passport- sized photo of a young

woman. Juliette Gervaise.


I hear my son on the creaking wooden steps, footsteps that match my

heartbeats. Has he called out to me before?

“Mom? You shouldn’t be up here. Shit. The steps are unsteady.” He

comes to stand beside me. “One fall and—”

I touch his pant leg, shake my head softly. I can’t look up. “Don’t” is all

I can say.

He kneels, then sits. I can smell his aftershave, something subtle and

spicy, and also a hint of smoke. He has sneaked a cigarette outside, a habit

he gave up de cades ago and took up again at my recent diagnosis. There

is no reason to voice my disapproval: He is a doctor. He knows better.

My instinct is to toss the card into the trunk and slam the lid down,

hiding it again. It’s what I have done all my life.

Now I am dying. Not quickly, perhaps, but not slowly, either, and I feel

compelled to look back on my life.

“Mom, you’re crying.”

“Am I?”

I want to tell him the truth, but I can’t. It embarrasses and shames me,

this failure. At my age, I should not be afraid of anything— certainly not

my own past.

I say only, “I want to take this trunk.”

“It’s too big. I’ll repack the things you want into a smaller box.”

I smile at his attempt to control me. “I love you and I am sick again. For

these reasons, I have let you push me around, but I am not dead yet. I want

this trunk with me.”

“What can you possibly need in it? It’s just our artwork and other junk.”

If I had told him the truth long ago, or had danced and drunk and sung

more, maybe he would have seen me instead of a dependable, ordinary

mother. He loves a version of me that is incomplete. I always thought it was

what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be


“Think of this as my last request.”

I can see that he wants to tell me not to talk that way, but he’s afraid his

voice will catch. He clears his throat. “You’ve beaten it twice before. You’ll

beat it again.”

We both know this isn’t true. I am unsteady and weak. I can neither

sleep nor eat without the help of medical science. “Of course I will.”

“I just want to keep you safe.”

I smile. Americans can be so naïve.

Once I shared his optimism. I thought the world was safe. But that was

a long time ago.

“Who is Juliette Gervaise?” Julien says and it shocks me a little to hear

that name from him.

I close my eyes and in the darkness that smells of mildew and bygone

lives, my mind casts back, a line thrown across years and continents.

Against my will— or maybe in tandem with it, who knows anymore?— I



Kristin Hannah: The Nightingale

Sometimes a story sneaks up on you, hits you hard, and dares you to look away. That was the case with The Nightingale. In truth, I did everything I could not to write this novel. But when research on World War II led me to the story of a nineteen-year-old Belgian woman who had created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France, I was hooked. I had read endless books on World War II, and still I didn't know this story; I didn't know that downed airmen had hiked over the frozen peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains in shoes that didn't fit, in clothes that weren't warm enough, with both the Germans and the Spanish patrols searching for them. The entire journey out of France and over the mountains was fraught with risk. As the war progressed and the Nazis learned of the escapes, the consequences to anyone caught aiding the escapees became deadly.

The woman who led them was named Andrée De Jongh and her story — one of heroism and peril and unbridled courage — became the starting point for my novel. I simply couldn't turn away. When I had read everything I could about Andrée, I dove into the stories of women who joined the Resistance in France. I found literally dozens of memoirs written by women who had become spies and couriers and helped to create the escape network.

These women were the action-star heroes of the time, but there were others, women with stories that were told in a quieter voice: women who hid Jewish children in their homes. These courageous women put themselves directly in harm's way to save others. Too many of them paid a terrible, unimaginable price for their heroism. They were, like so many women in wartime, largely forgotten after the war's end. There were no parades for them, very few medals, and almost no mention in the history books. It felt like an oversight to me, something that needed to be corrected. These women had risked their lives in a time when the smallest mistake could get one killed. They deserved to be understood and remembered.

Once the idea took root, I began as I always do: with research. It's really the research — in any novel — that informs the story. First I find out what has happened, and then I begin to extrapolate what could happen, and then I create a world that makes sense to me, an imaginary world firmly planted in truth. In this story, of course, the research was a daunting task. There was simply so much to know and understand. I started with the historical background of the war in Europe and then began to narrow my focus. My best information always comes from memoirs — in this case, memoirs of women in the Resistance, downed airman who had escaped, and women who hid and rescued Jewish children.

Of course I took a few liberties — it's fiction, after all — but I did it all with an eye toward telling a story that felt as true as possible. I really felt a heavy burden to tell these stories well and honestly. Too many of them have been forgotten.

More and more, as I read about these brave women, I found myself consumed with a single, overwhelming question, as relevant today as it was seventy years ago: When would I, as a wife and mother, risk my life — and more important, my child's life — to save a stranger?

That question is at the very heart of The Nightingale.

A question that haunts me still.

From the Barnes & Noble Review, February 1, 2015

Customer Reviews

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The Nightingale 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 801 reviews.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
Very rarely do I read a book in one day.    The Nightingale is a book that I could not put down.   The setting is one of my favorites, WW II and France.  I cried at points of this book, I was in awe of Viann and Isabelle’s strength, and I loved the way the children in this story were able to be so strong.   This is the story of Viann and Isabelle and how they managed to live through the horror of Nazi occupation.   I cannot even begin to understand all of what they had to do and how they had to live but I certainly can understand why they did what they did during this time. Viann, being a mother and wife, was the character I could relate most too but I wanted to think that if I was in France during the occupation I could be as strong as Isabelle.     Viann did everything she could to keep her daughter safe and healthy during a time when it was not easy.   I was in awe of what she gave up to do this.   She put her own beliefs aside and did what the Nazi’s said just to keep them in their own house and to allow them to stay together.     Isabelle, being a single woman, stepped out of the normal woman’s role and stepped into a much more dangerous role while helping those who were fighting against the Nazi’s.   Isabelle was amazing.   A woman in the 40’s did not usually work outside the home, did not fight wars, and certainly did not save downed pilots.   Kristin Hannah is one of my all time favorite authors.    She is an author that I know will always tug at my heart strings and keep me entertained.   When I see a book by Kristin I know that it is a must read.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is one everyone should read. Knowing this book is labeled as a work of fiction didn't fool my heart or head. The pain and emotion of the women in this book is real. I haven't cried while reading a book in a long time but my teardrops would often fall silently while reading this one. I didn't want the book to end! Definitely in my top 5 books of all times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. It is a must read. Brought tears to my eyes at times. Excellent.
SavannahJH More than 1 year ago
I could not stop reading this book.  What an insightful story about two sisters in WWII France One sees how the war affected those on the home-front in rural France and gives the reader some understanding why the citizenry acted as they did to the German occupation.  I admire all those who participated in the Resistance.  This book will give you reason to admire them too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books ever read.
aprilgirlmj More than 1 year ago
Difficult to put down.  Makes you wonder what you might do under their circumstance.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wonderful story and characters, great history, and an ending to beat all endings. a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Kristin Hannah's books and this is one of the best.
luckyduck61 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Could not put it down. I think it is my favorite Kristin Hannah book yet!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A hauntingly beautiful novel of WWII France and the brave men and women in the Resistance. The unglossed truth of the evil perpetrated against the French by the Nazis was revealed. I knew about it, but did not realize the depth of the depravity that went on day and night for YEARS. It is also a love story and the enduring love of family and the sacrifices that were made for GOOD. The great cost of their bravery was laid out for all to appreciate. Inspiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was really good,Iliked it:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I have read. Very emotional..have the kleenex ready. The story is so powerful and moving, I could not put the book down and was sorry to see it end. This author knows what she's doing. She captivated me from the beginning right to the end. I highly recommend this book.
NoPageUnturned More than 1 year ago
There seems to be no end to the inventiveness of WW II German high command when attempting to degrade and crush the citizens of the countries they overran. Nor does there seem to be a lack of courage on the part of those who suffer at their hands. Even choosing the path of least resistance sometimes becomes heroic. This is the story of two sisters who each defy the Germans in their own ways and dictated by their own circumstances. One a passive farm wife, one an angry young rebel. Intriguingly, the story starts in the present day and we are not sure until the very end which sister is the narrator of the story. Written as fiction there is at least a little romance and kindess to offset the daily horror of survival and the brutality which has become to be expected of stories in this genre. Not the saddest or most haunting of stories of this time and thankfully not the most graphic, it is still an engaging read and you really want to know who the narrator turns out to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific book that I could not put down.  It shows the effects of war from an entirely different viewpoint, Two French sisters chose very different  ways to survive Nazi occupation.  The degradation,horrors, brutality, deprivation they experienced,brought tears to my eyes.  Yet, they each found a way to fight back, knowing they would probably die.  Hannah has done her research well.  One of the best reads I have had in a long time., 
Ms_Darcy More than 1 year ago
Loved, loved, loved. Beautifully written, wonderfully researched...I cannot recommend this book enough. The story feels so very real, it's hard to remember that it isn't a memoir. Read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot remember the last time I read a book that I could NOT put down like this!  The story was absolutely incredible and heartbreaking.  I was so sad when the story ended.  Do yourself a favor and READ THIS!! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most incredible books I have read in a long time. A tear-jerking historical novel of tragedy, love, survival and the will to find love despite all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm still speechless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started a bit slow, but I'm so glad I stuck with it. What an amazing book, by a truly gifted author!!!! Read long into the night. Highly recommend to all!!! Warning you will lose sleep with this one!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read. Rarely do you hear about how the women in Europe survived WW2, and this story made you feel like you were right there during those cold winters in France...taken over by Nazi's. Very enlightening and fantastically written... I cried like a baby.. dont forget the tissue box while reading this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While reading I felt as though I were present. I
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although sad, this was a great book. It was hard to put down.
SuZQ41 More than 1 year ago
This book will resonate with me for a long time. I had never really thought about the French side of WW2 and how much they suffered. This tells the story of 2 very different sisters and how they coped. I defy anyone to read the last 50 pages of this book and not go through a box of Kleenex. It has stayed on my mind since I finished it.
Mel07 More than 1 year ago
This is one of Kristen Hannah's best novels.  As usual with her writing, her characters really brought the story of the French Resistance to life. It is heartbreaking and so entertaining.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As an avid reader, I appreciate the gems when I find one! This is an utterly gut wrenching, painful, and stunning book of loss, war, and love. A parent's love, sibling love, friendship love and romantkc love. It elegantly shares the tragic story of an horrific time in history while expertly weaving in the miracles of love. Best book