The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Nightingale

Plot Summary Part 1

Vianne lives in a small village in France. Her husband Antoine is called up to fight World War II. She is sure the conflict will be over quickly as the Germans could never, ever break the Maginot Line, the French defensive positions which were supposedly impenetrable (the Germans ended up simply going around it).

Meanwhile her younger sister Isabelle gets kicked out of yet another boarding school and sent home to her angry Dad. Her Dad hasn't been the same since World War I broke his mind and he is more than a little unhappy to see his daughter. You may think he is a nasty p_nis but just wait until the end of the book when he sacrifices his life for her.

The Germans invade Paris so Isabelle's Dad sends her to her sister Vianne in the countryside. Isabelle follows a long train of refugees. She even sees a lot of French surrender monkeys (French soldiers) running away at full speed. When someone gets angry at the soldiers for being surrender monkeys and puts a knife to one's throat, the soldier sobs and actually says it is ok to kill him. German airplanes bomb the refugees which makes Isabelle more than a little uncomfortable.

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One evening the forest she meets a man cooking a rabbit on the fire. His name is Gaetan and he is a communist and a thief, which is pretty much the same thing, except that a communist is a more successful thief.  Isabelle is a little worried that Gaetan wants to bone her but she is very hungry so she stays with him for the night. The next day, Isabelle finds that her hymen is still miraculously intact. She continues walking with Gaetan to Vianne's village.

A swarm of refugees pass by Vianne's house. She helps the first few but realizes she will be quickly overwhelmed so she goes in and locks the doors as if hiding from a zombie invasion.  Vianne notices how badly they smell. She doesn't want their body odor in her spotless home.

Isabelle makes a deal with Gaetan to join the resistance. He wants to seal their deal with a kiss. They kiss and in that one moment Isabelle falls in love with him. This is the basis for their entire romance for the first 75% of the book, since they never touch each other again for 400 pages. It's a little hard to believe that two people fall in love because of a single kiss. Besides, Gaetan is a communist, who knows what he might steal?

When Isabelle awakens after a nap Gaetan is gone. He left a note saying she was not ready to join the resistance. Maybe she wasn't as good a kisser as she had thought.

She reaches her sister Vianne's house. They hear over the radio that the Surrender Monkey in Chief, Marshal Petain, had surrendered to the Germans, allowing France to be carved up into two pieces, a northern occupied section and a southern section run by a puppet government.

Vianne obeys Marshal Petain's order to surrender without question. If he says surrender, Vianne is sure it is all for the best. As you can see, at the beginning of the book, Vianne is quite a surrender monkey too.

Germans come to occupy their village because of the nearby airfield, which they take over.

The Gestapo orders all radios, guns, and explosives to be turned over to the Germans. People who keep them will be shot.

German Captain Wolfgang Beck shows up and demands to sleep in one of Vianne's bedrooms. He is very polite and Vianne's nipples immediately get hard whenever she looks at him.

But Isabelle has the opposite reaction. While Vianne is already thinking of possible sex positions in her mind, Isabelle, when told by Beck that her hair is beautiful, immediately takes scissors and cuts her hair in defiance. Kind of stupid defiance, but defiance nonetheless. It becomes clear at that moment that Isabelle will not be the one to give Beck a blowjob in the Mauric household.

Vianne thinks Marshal Petain will keep them safe and that her husband Antoine will come home soon. Isabelle tells her she's a fool.

After dinner, Beck and Vianne go outside to admire the stars. Their first date! Vianne is afraid to move. She's obviously sexually aroused.

Isabelle is not interested in watching the Nazi dating game and decides to leave, but quickly returns when she learns she needs a pass to leave town. While defacing a Nazi poster she attracts the attention of the resistance. She meets with them and agrees to put resistance fliers in peoples' mailboxes  in the early hours of the morning.

This is a very stupid thing for Isabelle to do. It doesn't have any effect, and if she's caught she will be executed. In fact she does it a number of times and it's amazing that in a small village she isn't caught doing it. In fact, in one great scene, Beck almost catches her doing it.

But Beck is generally busy seducing Vianne. Beck, a tight t-shirt, offers to chop the wood for Vianne. Vianne feels "uncomfortable" around him (e.g. sexually aroused again).

She meant to move, but somehow she didn't, and then he was there, pulling the axe gently out of her hand. She held on instinctively for a moment. Their gazes met, held. She released her hold and stepped back so quickly she stumbled He caught her by the wrist, steadied her. Mumbling a thank you she turned and walked away from him, keeping her spine as straight as she could.

Vianne wants sex with Beck really bad! Even Vianne's Jewish neighbor Rachel who gets deported to the concentration camp marvels at how attractive Beck is.

Vianne learns that her husband Antoine is in a prisoner of war camp. If she wants sex, she will have to get it from Beck for the foreseeable future.

Beck asks her for a list of Jews, communists, and homosexuals at the local school.

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