*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Nightingale, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
If you haven’t read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, I highly recommend it. In fact, it was the book that stirred the passion in my heart again for reading and story telling. I had been reading and studying fiction for a while when I decided to read The Nightingale. And, after reading it, I thought THIS is exactly what a good story should be for a reader.
The Nightingale is an all-encompassing experience that wears you out by taking you through the full range of emotions and leaves you contemplating life. And, a book with a steady plot full of twists and turns.
I was actually able to listen to it on audiobook, which was fantastic. The reader, Polly Stone, does a fabulous job with adding a French flare to just the right places. If you get that choice, it is a great option. Either way, this book will leave you thinking. And, by the end of it you’ll be holding your loved ones a little tighter.
If you’re a Kristin Hannah fan, check out the book club questions and recipe for The Great Alone here on Book Club Bites! For The Nightingale, I’ve provided a recipe and discussion questions below, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Nightingale:
When Nazis invade France, Vianne Mauriac from the quiet village of Carriveau, is forced to board an enemy officer. With her husband gone to the Front, she has little choice but to succumb to the will of the Nazis in order to protect herself and her young daughter.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, has other plans, though. And, when she meets Gaetan, a mysterious agent of the Resistance, she dives headfirst into a love affair and mission that will risk her own life and the lives of those she loves.
As Vianne and Isabelle are forced by love and war to make one difficult choice after another, the book’s haunting opening line echoes in the reader’s ear, “In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
For the The Nightingale recipe:
It was very hard for me to pick a recipe for a book so inundated with starvation. It almost felt like a betrayal to cook something warm and wonderful after reading about such horrific hunger during the Nazi occupation of France.
However, when Isabelle embarks on her first mission over the Pyrenees, Madame Babineau serves her and the downed airmen a meal of French bread, goat cheese, and lavender honey.
This mission was such a turning point in the book towards hope, that I thought it was an appropriate recipe. A meal of hope and possibility amongst the darkness and cruelty.
I decided to make a goat cheese and honey appetizer. So, if you’re looking for book club food ideas for The Nightingale, here you go.
The lavender honey alone was delicious and could easily be a wonderful compliment to black tea.
Drizzled on french bread smeared with goat cheese, it was AMAZING.
I have no doubt your book club will love it. It seemed like a very European dish and the culinary lavender, reminiscent of French lavender fields, really made me feel as if I could be there in the Pyrenees or in Carriveau with Vianne and Isabelle.
“Madame Babineau set out a meal of bread and sweet lavender honey and creamy goat cheese. “-The Nightingale, Chapter 19
Goat Cheese and Honey Appetizer:
French Bread with Goat Cheese and Lavender Honey
- 1 loaf French Bread
- 1 cup goat cheese*
- 1 cup honey
- 2 tbsp culinary lavender
For the lavender honey:
- On the stove top, heat the honey over low heat.
- Add the culinary lavender to the honey.
- Let the honey and lavender cook for 10 minutes on low. Do not boil. Boiling will cause the honey to crystallize and thicken.
- Remove from the heat and pour over a mesh sleeve to separate the lavender from the honey.
- Serve warm if desired (use caution). Or allow to cool.
- Slice the French bread into thick slices.
- Spread the goat cheese* onto the bread in a thick layer.
- Drizzle with plenty of honey.
The Nightingale Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- There are a lot of WWII novels. However, this book is somewhat unique in the choice of narrator. The story, told through the POV of two sisters, illuminates the hardships of women during the war. How did you feel that the choice of narrator greatly impacted this novel and your take aways? How did you feel about the choice to keep the narrator of the opening chapter secret until the end of the book?
- Did the subject of the Nazi occupation of France during the war open a new faucet of WWII history for you? Were you familiar with the events of the novel? Which parts of the novel did you find most shocking—the parts in the French countryside or the parts in Paris? Why?
- Although there were some Jews in the story, the novel primarily focuses on civilian deaths and hardships. Were you able to relate more closely to the characters because Kristin Hannah uses the effects of the occupation on characters’ homes and daily life as a backdrop for the novel?
- Vianne and Captain Beck share a friendship that is borderline romantic. However, when she is forced to choose between Captain Beck and Isabelle, the choice is easy. At least, she says that it is. How do you think that Captain Beck’s death brought to life the complexity of war in a way that no other death in the book did? Did you feel sorry for him?
- At the end of the book, Vianne lets Ari go. Did you feel that this was the best decision for Ari? After losing so many people that she loved, do you think that Vianne should have put up more of a fight? What would you have done?
- Who did you think was braver—Vianne or Isabelle? Vianne fought the war at home, living with a Nazi under her roof, and was still able to save several Jewish children. Isabelle saved many lives through the perilous escape route over the Pyrenees mountains. Did one take more courage than the other? Why or why not?
- The book starts with the statement “In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find who we are.” How do you think that this is ultimately true for Isabelle and Gaeton’s relationship? How do you think it is ultimately true for Vianne and Antoine’s relationship?
- In many ways, the novel is about forgiveness. We see it in the way that Julien sacrifices his life for his daughter Isabelle’s, we see it when Antoine returns and accepts the baby as his own, and we see it in many ways between Isabelle and Vianne. As Antoine says about the baby, “We choose to see miracles.” In what way do you think that the beginning of forgiveness is in choosing to see miracles? How do you think that the tragedies of war made this choice clearer for the characters?
- In the end, only one sister lives. Do you think that at end of experiencing such horrors it is more of a burden to die or to live? Why? At the end, which sister did you most empathize with?
- Because of its impact on the world there are many novels about WWII. Where does this novel rank amongst them for you? What are some of your other favorite books on the subject?
Have you read The Nightingale? What was your favorite part of the book? What questions popped into your mind while reading?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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