The All Good Books discussion group will meet Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 7 PM at the Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) to discuss The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Come join us.

For those who have not yet read this month’s novel, here’s my personal (hopefully) non-spoiler assessment.

“The Nightingale” drags you vicariously through occupied France during the Second World War. It’s a story of starvation, benevolent occupation, sadistic power, constant fear, rebellion, the best of heroic humanity, the worst of collaboration, young love, mature love, the bonds of family and the disintegration of family. At times one wonders, why am I subjecting myself to the horrors and cruelty of war; yet all that pain is necessary to experience the sometimes bittersweet but truly emotional conclusion. Don’t be a “read the last page first” reader. This story needs to be built page by page to the finale that speaks to how we never really, fully understand the lives of others, with all their pain, triumphs and struggles.

The following are some suggested discussion questions.

  1. How would you describe “The Nightingale” to someone who might consider reading the novel? Would you recommend or not recommend the book?
  2. Do you see a reflection of yourself in any of the novel’s characters? Did you relate to any one character more than the others? Explain why?
  3. Why do you think the two sisters, Vianne and Isabella, react so differently to the Nazi occupation? How would you describe their personalities, concerns and reactions?
  4. Which scene or event in the novel did you find the most memorable (good or bad)? Explain why.
  5. The novel describes a community under harsh conditions; harsh winters, food shortages, fear, uncertainty, military bombardments, dissolution of families and friendships. How do you think you would have functioned and survived (or not) under such conditions? Have you ever experienced any of these types of situations? Describe.
  6. Do parents ever really know their children? Do children ever really know their parents?
  7. Is there a quote or statement in the novel that is a favorite? Or made you stop and consider it’s meaning? How about any of the following? Do they “speak” to you? If so, how?
    1. “In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
    2. “…grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.”
    3. “He loves a version of me that is incomplete. I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.”
    4. “Why was it so easy for men in the world to do as they wanted and so difficult for women?”
    5. “Tante Isabelle says it’s better to be bold than meek. She says if you jump off a cliff at least you’ll fly before you fall.”
    6. “He was a man who had stumbled into a little bit of power and seized it with both hands.”
    7. If you’re going through hell, keep going. —WINSTON CHURCHILL
    8. “But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”
    9. “Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war.”
  8. In one portion of the novel, the narrator says, “A stewardess takes one look at me and makes that here’s an old one who needs help face. Living where I do now, in that shoebox filled with the Q-tips that old people become, I’ve come to recognize it. Usually it irks me, makes me straighten my back and push aside the youngster who is sure that I cannot cope in the world on my own, but just now I’m tired and scared and a little help doesn’t seem like a bad thing.” Whether you’re old or young, have you ever felt that way?
  9. Why does the author keep referring to black squares on the walls?
  10. What is the meaning or significance of the apple tree in Vianne’s yard?
  11. Nathaniel and Phillipe come with a request about Daniel near the end of the book. Was it a fair request? Do you understand it? How would you have reacted if you were Daniel’s Maman?
  12. How did you react to the novel’s conclusion? Would you have changed the ending?