Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale

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Last night, I finished reading Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. After I put down the novel, I wondered what it was that glued me to war novels so much. What was it that made me want to read and re-read novels that talked of pain and misery and atrocity and injustice and what not? It wasn't that the pain I lived through with the characters made me happy. Then, what was it? In Hannah's novel, I seemed to find the answer - 

Love.
It was the beginning and end of everything, the foundation and the ceiling and the air in between. It didn't matter that she was broken and ugly and sick. He loved her and she loved him. All her life she had waited - longed for - people to love her, but now she saw what really mattered. She had known love, been blessed by it. (The Nightingale, P-428)

The Nightingale is a novel not just about war. It is also about two sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, trying to find peace, trying to stitch back their lives together - lives that have been ripped apart by the monstrosity of hostility. It is a tale that affirms life. It is a saga that testifies to the values we stand by - values which exist on both sides. 

 Isabelle and Vianne are different personalities. The way they respond to situations reflect their demeanor. It is also a cause of misunderstanding between the two. Isabelle seems too volatile to Vianne, and Vianne is too lukewarm for Isabelle. It is the war that brings out a different side of each of them.  Dire times test them in excruciating ways. One longs for love, the other for peace. They both 'participate' in the war in different ways - one by helping save the Allied soldiers, and the other by rescuing the Jewish children. For them, war is a reality they live with every single day. As Vianne rightly says, "We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over." Women suffer the loss of friends, of family, of dignity and respect.  They 'wait' for all of this to get over so that they can start afresh. Vianne wonders whether she should forget everything, as if it was possible. But Antoine, her husband, reminds her that it is only in "remembering" that they will be able to renew life. 

Hannah explores the grounds of morality on which we judge people and ourselves through the characters of Herr Beck and Vianne. When the 'good' captain billets at Vianne's house, what begins is a shaky interrogation of what constitutes 'right' and 'wrong'. Everything is not black and white. Even the meting out of justice, as becomes evident with Beck's departure and Herr Richter's arrival. Who do we kill, and why? Who do we let live, and why? The book seeks to elicit a response from the reader.

In the end is the beginning. I will not reveal what,since I do not want to spoil it for those who have not read the book. But the beginning rests on the edifice of pain and loss and suffering. It seems to tell you to live, to love, to smile while you have time. It seems to tell you to remember too since forgetting is not the right way. In remembering, we realize what matters truly. The Nightingale will always sing a song where ever there is love. 

There are a few lines that have etched in my mind permanently. I do not know why. They keep coming back to me. They may not affect you the way they did me but still I will share them here as I end this post.

She was the first woman to queue up outside the shop this morning, and because of that, she got her full ration of butter. One hundred grams for the month. Two-thirds of a cup.
A treasure. (P- 105)



Linking to #MondayMusings on Everyday Gyaan

16 comments:

  1. Wonderful quotes Sunaina. Heard from some other blogger also about this book. Will add to my read list. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Definitely Mahathi....it is a very well-written novel.

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  2. Looks like it is a good read.Have to check.Thanks for mentioning about it.

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  3. How stunningly written. Love is all. Only individuals who have been through love will understand what each words in this post actually convey.

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    1. Yes Ajay.....We cannot even imagine the pain of people in war.

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  4. The beautiful review of the book does tempt us, the readers to grab the book..

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  5. Superb writing that reflects your mastery over the language- Thank you for sharing a wonderful review!

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  6. What a lovely way of reviewing a book like this! Seems like a quite an interesting read. I will surely grab my copy. Thanks for spreading the word dear :)

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  7. It's a wonderful, intriguing review:) I'm hooked..

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  8. Wonderful review Sunaina. Reading about love in times of loss and suffering has its own charm as also struggle bringing out different aspects of people's personality.

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    1. Yes Somali. The book so beautifully captures the haunting absence and need for love in some oh-so-simple incidents.

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