book review: the nightingale


This was my first time reading Kristin Hannah, and I think I did myself a disservice. Having just read The Alice Network, a lot of the would-be surprises of this novel were lost on me. Although this one focuses on WW2 instead of WW1, it’s still about a network of (mostly) female French spies. So some of the shock-and-awe of ‘what? a lady can be a spy?’ felt a little overdone.

My philosophy of reading is generally that this is my free time, my hobby, my form of entertainment. So I can be sad and difficult (i.e. Beartown) but please don’t leave me feeling like I wasted my time being depressed just to get more depressed. That was this book I’m sad to say. I skimmed like the last 50 pages just to finish it after such a long commitment. The ending was a big let-down, and I think I was supposed to be surprised by a twist that I anticipated from (literally) the third page of the novel.

My first issue with this book is the exhausting “she’s the most beautiful woman any person has ever seen” character. 1,000 UGHS. That’s almost enough to make me quit any book, even a romance (which I don’t generally read), but when the book is supposed to be about war…. you’ve got to be kidding me. This leads to a HUGE host of problems, namely that I’m supposed to believe that this women—who stops men in their tracks at a hundred yards with her beauty—never gets hurt by any of the occupying soldiers over a multi-year period? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. War is hell, right? (Don’t worry, we get to read the disturbing scene of her sister’s assault, though. Bleh.)

The second problem with this beauty is the James Bond paradox (a name I just invented). Attractive people wouldn’t make good spies because they draw attention and make you remember them. Hot dudes like Daniel Craig and stunning women like Jennifer Garner (thinking of Sydney Bristow, Alias) aren’t forgettable. So the most beautiful woman in the world would be memorable—hence, the exact OPPOSITE of what you want in a spy.

Most annoyingly…. the author cannot decide what she thinks family is. There’s this huge drawn-out slogging family saga happening with abandonment and how you will always still love a father who has mistreated you for 25 years… and then also that you can let go of a child who was “just” adopted and you’ll both be better off…. and then also that it’s ok to lie to your husband about who fathered your child because ‘family is more than biology’…. What? The author can’t pick a line on what she is trying to say!

Final point of irritation: falling in love in three days with a man who doesn’t speak to you at ALL… so deeply in love that you are still waiting for him years later. Um… no.

Bottom line, meh. I feel mean, but The Nightingale wasn’t for me.