The Nightingale is the book that made Kristin Hannah famous. Prior to its publication in February 2015, Ms. Hannah had already been a prolific author, writing 21 novels at the rate of about one a year. Apparently, she got into writing by creating a manuscript with her mother who was dying of cancer. (This first novel has never been published.)
Most of Ms. Hannah’s early titles are NOT romances, in the sense that they don’t follow the strict formulas that constitute romance. Nor are they bodice rippers. But they do involve romantic situations, often set in the past. Ms. Hannah’s talent can be seen by the clever premises of these early novels. For example, Once in Every Life concerns a young woman who is blind, and then killed in an accident. The Powers that Be, feeling compassion for this person who never had much of a chance at life, offers her a second one. She chooses a man and a baby (as that is always what she’d wanted, but never found time for in her busy modern life) only to find out that she’d taken on more than she’d bargained for as both characters live in 1873 after the American Civil War.
Then there is When Lightning Strikes, in which an author of historical romances is plunged back in time and kidnapped by one of her own characters! Only someone with a vivid imagination and clever mind could have come up with something like that.
All of this is to say that Ms. Hannah, despite her talent, had to work very hard for many years before she got the recognition she deserved. In The Nightingale, Ms. Hannah writes something that is quite marvelous. Of course there is romance (how could there not be when we are talking about young people fighting a horrible war), but I didn’t find it intrusive, not did I think that it unbalanced the novel, as some critics claim. Instead, I found it very restrained, one of the threads that weave a life together. The other threads of this novel include relationships between women (sisters, daughters, best friends), the abuse visited upon women by men, and the constant deprivation; the hunger, sleeplessness, worry engendered by a grinding conflict that never seems to end.
This novel is about the women who stayed behind, the women who tended to their gardens, their children, their neighbors, cooked, ate, shopped, and then got up the very next day to do it all again. The international accolades that Ms. Hannah gained for writing this novel are well-deserved.
Five Stars. #kristinhannah #thenightingale