Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Nightingale
Then Vianne realizes she is pregnant, with a Nazi rape baby. Sophie is going to get a little brother!
Right after Vianne gets inseminated, the Nazis leave town, due to the advancing American forces who are rescuing the French surrender monkeys. Von Richter says goodbye and calls Vianne his French whore.
Then Antoine, her husband, suddenly shows up, having been released from the prisoner of war camp where all the French surrender monkeys were held. He is very thin, his hair is grey, and his left arm is useless. But Vianne is all over him, racing to put his limp p_nis into her so she can quickly claim that the Nazi rape baby will be his. Maybe he won't notice a baby being born two months early, right?Click here to see the rest of this review
But Vianne gets the impression that Antoine knows she is carrying a rape baby when he cryptically says, "You've been through so much. We choose to see miracles." Antoine knew she had to have sex with the Nazis. He doesn't mind raising a Nazi rape baby. He's just that kind of guy.
Still, they don't really get kinky with each other because they both know the horror of what Vianne carries inside her womb. "He said he didn't make love to her because of the baby, and she agreed that it was for the best, but they knew."
Isabelle is near death. She has lost a lot of weight, most of her hair and much of her teeth, and now is being marched in the cold to a new camp. Those who can't keep up are being executed. Then one day the guards all run away and she knows the war is over.
Near death, she is brought back to her village in France and reunited with Vianne, who hardly recognizes her. Vianne reveals that she has saved 19 Jewish babies and Isabelle has a new respect for her. Isabelle thought Vianne was a passive collaborator and now realizes she was as brave as she was. Vianne learns that her friend Rachel and her husband died in the concentration camp so they decided to permanently adopt Ari, who they call Daniel.
But then some Jewish guys show up and demand to take Daniel, who they call Ari, to live with cousins. So little Ari gets the ultimate mind-fuck not once but twice in his life. The first time at the age of three when he was told his mother was gone and he had a new name, Daniel, and the second just a few years later when he was told he was no longer Daniel and was once again Ari and that lady whose been your Mom for the past few years? You're never going to see her again and aren't even allowed to write her letters.
The Jewish guys are portrayed as unbelievably cruel, not even allowing Vianne to keep in touch with Daniel/Ari. There's something really wrong with the lady who wrote this book when she portrays Jewish people as being cruel and German soldiers like Captain Beck being warm and sensitive.
The very sick Isabelle reconciles with Vianne. They each apologize for being mean to each other, and tell each other how proud they are of what they have done.
They read a letter from their dead Dad who apologizes for being a bad father and regretting that he hadn't been nicer to them.
Gaetan shows up, and seeing Isabelle completely bald and missing teeth, tells her how beautiful she is.
Flashing forward to 1995, we see Vianne and Julien, her Nazi rape baby all grown up, going to a reunion where they see Gaetan. Then they meet Daniel or Ari or whatever his name is now, also all grown up. It seems Isabelle and Antoine and even Sophie are dead. They all cry and hug each other. Vianne tells her rape-son how glad she is that he is around. The end.
First the good: Kristin Hannah really knew how to write dramatic scenes! The scene at the end when old Vianne meets grown up Daniel, the scene where Vianne has to give him up to his relatives, the scene where Isabelle's dad almost discovers the flier hidden in her bedroom.... Hannah is very good at writing dramatic, emotional scenes.
The character story of Vianne was also emotionally gripping. She was doing her best to survive and had to do horrible things to stay alive.
But the character story of Isabelle felt less compelling. Her romance with Gaetan, which sprang from a single kiss, seemed contrived and hollow. She worked out her problems with her father too quickly--one minute she hated him, the next she loved him. Her character interactions did not seem substantial. Most of her story was action adventure. Watch Isabelle hand out secret fliers! Watch Isabelle climb the French mountains! But without the character element it felt kind of hollow.
I also felt some of the characters were unrealistic. A German army officer procuring false papers for a Jewish baby? Highly unlikely. The Beck character was made unrealistically warm and human, too positive, given the German army's historical role in the Nazi regime.
The idea that the Nazis would believe that the Nightingale would simply surrender to them and identify himself is totally unbelievable as well.
The "gimmick" of this story is that the book opened with an old woman getting ready to go to a reunion. We don't know who the old woman is until the end when we find out it is Vianne and Julien, her former rape baby. The old woman says and does nothing of interest that justifies this gimmick.
And finally the ending was sad. Vianne was raped by a Nazi and Isabelle is a bald, toothless creature. Of course, there were a lot of unhappy endings in World War II, that's why it was called a World War, however I would have enjoyed the story more if the main characters had fared a little better.