My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”
WOW…Just WOW! This is one BEAUTIFUL book. I’ve got ugly tears running down my face right now. I just love this quote and it beautifully and succinctly summarizes this book. For almost a year, I’ve heard so much buzz about this book, but somehow I couldn’t get myself to read it…maybe because of the historical background. Well, there is a lot of war in this book, but this book is so much more than war. This is a story about humanity and how far we will go to save a stranger. It is a story about family and love. It is an empowering story about the inner strength and endurance of women. It is HEARTWRENCHING! It looks at society and how people’s fear can cloud sound judgment. It asks the hard questions of how far will we go to protect our loved ones? How much can we take before we break?
This book follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and their struggles during World War II. Although sisters, they are not friends. Abandoned by their father at an early age, both struggle to find love, acceptance, and their place in life. As the war comes to France, Vianne and Isabelle find their strength and learn to survive the war. They both grow throughout the process and make their mark on the war.
I’m not a history buff, but after reading this novel and knowing that Kristin Hannah was inspired by true stories, I am completely in awe and want to learn more about this time period.
This book is so wonderful and I have so many emotions running through me right now. I’m not sure how to write this review. I guess I’ll just tell you about how this book will make you feel and what I hope you’ll gain from this book.
I’ll be honest…it took me awhile to really get into the book. Don’t get me wrong, the entire book is good, but I wasn’t hooked until about 30% (so keep reading if you are unsure about this book). At this point I just became so invested in their story and what it must have been like to live through WWII. I was so engrossed in the story; I was emotionally in sync with Vianne and Isabelle. I felt myself trudging along and trying to be strong just like Vianne and Isabelle. Only until the end did I relax and allow myself to grieve for all of their loss. I’m grieving and reminiscing on their journey. It is now at the end of the book that I can fully appreciate this story and all the beauty and wisdom it has to offer.
Vianne and Isabelle are very different characters. Isabelle is naive, impetuous, and free-spirited. In contrast, Vianne is older, wiser, and more responsible and cautious in life. However, both sisters are insecure and flawed in their own way. Each sister takes their own path in the war. Both have their own crises and question ethics, morals, and how to live a meaningful life. They make mistakes, hurt people, and they are both pushed to their breaking point–they find out who they really are and what they are willing to sacrifice to make a better world. Their growth is beautiful to watch. I could only hope I would do the same in their situation.
“Don’t think about who they are. Think about who you are and what sacrifices you can live with and what will break you.”
I found myself liking Isabelle more than Vianne which is interesting since I am more like Vianne in real life. I admired Isabelle so much. Her strength and courage was amazing. But as Vianne began to grow and mature, I really started to like her character as well. It was a proud moment when she realizes what she must to do live with herself in the war.
“She knew now that no one could be neutral-not anymore-and as afraid as she was of risking Sophie’s life, she was suddenly more afraid of letting her daughter grow up in a world where good people did nothing to stop evil, where a good woman could turn her back on a friend in need.”
There are so many wonderful messages and lessons in this book. How do we pick up the pieces and move on from such terror? How do we survive such hate? How do we overcome such evil?
“But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”
This story emphasizes that our ability to love is one of the most powerful forces. Love keeps the spirit alive. It has the potential to heal, to build and rebuild the future for us. It emphasizes the strength in us women and how we piece it all together and move the future along. It makes me so proud to be a woman.
“They couldn’t touch my heart. They couldn’t change who I was inside. My body…they broke that in the first days, but not my heart, V.”
The story also touches on our need for love and belonging. Isabelle, Vianne, and their father have a strained relationship. No matter how much they try to resist needing one another, their bond and need to be loved by one another is strong and everlasting.
“A girl’s love for her father. Immutable. Unbearable but unbreakable.”
It’s a story that emphasizes forgiveness, to live in the moment, and to appreciate and love one another while we are alive.
The story has tragedy pervading every scene. It’s a realistic story of grief and loss. I like happy endings because I know in life sometimes there are no happy endings. Books are my escape. This story doesn’t have a bad ending, just a realistic one that breaks my heart.
“Some stories don’t have happy endings. Even love stories. Maybe especially love stories.”
However, despite all the loss and grief, there is a silver lining. While the book reminds us that even though not all endings are happy, the life lived and how we lived is what matters. It’s the memories and the love found that carry us through.
“I know now what matters, and it is not what I have lost. It is my memories. Wounds heal. Love lasts.”
This book will touch your heart and soul. It will make you want to be strong. It will make you feel proud to be a woman. It will make you want to love harder and be better. It is a story of strength, love, courage, and sacrifice. This is a MUST read!!
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