Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (DNF)

I've seen The Nightingale everywhere and everywhere people rave about how good it is.  Thus, I was excited to read it.  My excitement didn't last, though.  I read it longer than I might have if I hadn't been trying hard to like it, but I have finally decided not to go on.  I gave the book a fair shake, reading about a third of it, thinking it might grow on me.  But, alas, it did not.

The Nightingale is about two sisters in Nazi occupied France during WWII.  I do like historical fiction, so that was a plus.  However, I disliked both sisters.  Vianne, the older sister, who is married and has a child, is ridiculously naive in her dependence on her husband, in her belief in the French government and in her dealings with the Germans.  Isabelle, the younger sister, is worse.  She is a hot-headed rebel and is also ridiculously naive in her rebellions.  Perhaps she evens out some as the book progresses.  I've seen some hints that might be the case, but, particularly at the start of the story, she is stupid in her small rebellions, inviting drastic consequences onto not only herself, but her sister and niece.  She's also seriously stubborn, won't help with simple things and is a really bad role model (seemingly purposefully) for her niece.

In addition to not liking the sisters, some of the consequences of war as described in the story come on way too fast to be believable.  For example, Vianne, just a few months in, is complaining about her dress shoes not being made for everyday wear.  So, what happened to whatever shoes she was wearing everyday before the war started?  It's only been a few months.  Also?  There is a weather situation.  A few months in, Isabelle is complaining about how they're already having to bundle up, even before Christmas.  Now, some of this may be explained by the houses not having heat, but these are people who are used to walking to work and stores and such.  If before Christmas it's cold enough to bundle up, that's probably normal, not an effect of war, as is implied.  At this same time, their usually well stocked cellar has no more food.  While that would be expected a year or so in, a couple of months is too fast to deplete a cellar as well stocked as Isabelle's usually is (as described in detail).

It seems to me that there are plenty of stories told about WWII that aren't about concentration camps or the soldiers (which seems to be many people's reason for liking this book - that it's unique in that way).  Coming to mind off the top of my head are:  The Book Thief, All the Light We Cannot See, Snow Treasure, and Code Name Verity.  I think any of these is a better read.

While this is one of those books that I seem to be very much in the minority on, I have now seen a couple of reviews on Goodreads that make me really glad I didn't go on.  The last quarter of the book sounds seriously depressing.  That may be worthwhile if the book is wonderful, but not liking it already and then hitting that...well.  Let this serve as a warning, then, in a way that most other reviews about this book will not.  Save yourself!  You don't have to like The Nightingale!

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