Category Archives: Historical fiction

The Nightingale

nightingaleSo, I have finally finished ‘The Nightingale‘. In the end it took me only 4 days to read it, staying up until 4am to get to the end of it, just to get it out of the way and start our next book, ‘He Said, She Said’.

I enjoyed The Nightingale very much but I can’t see why there was so much hype about it, to be honest. It got 4.54 on Goodreads more than All the Light We Cannot See (4.3) It’s a good read, but it certainly did not affect me in the same way as All the Light We Cannot See. At book club it was a great choice and most highly recommend it. Marie and I were in a minority but I hasten to add that we did enjoy it, just not to the extend of the others.

So, my review is as follows. I found it rather melodramatic, clichéd, very predictable – Isabelle’s little room in Paris being used to save the airman, the barn used to save the Jews – you knew what was going to happen way before it did because Hannah prepares us for it before hand. For me there was very little tension in her writing. I thought it superficial and, dare I say it, a bit chick-lit!! I felt very little fear for Vianne when she hid Rachel, smuggled the children, got papers after a visit to Henri, and how wasn’t Isabelle caught simply by leaving tyre marks in the snow while riding her bike to deliver propaganda leaflets? And walk the Pyrenees in sandals?? Didn’t do it for me! I kept questioning everything by half way through, which then made the whole story just a little thin and disjointed, rushed and lacking in detail and explanations! OK enough negatives!! The story did reflect horrific details of the war, but for me Hannah didn’t succeed in putting it all together and creating a believable, tense, gritty, unforgettable WWll story. The end is the best part. Very poignant and heart wrenching. It made me cry and redeemed the other 4/5 of the book although again, I felt she was writing to try and make us cry!!

From Marie we have the following – Afraid I agree with Jan. The final 10 percent of the book had more impact than the rest of the book put together. I almost felt as if it was a different writer! Sorry I’m a very analytical person and the book was full of holes that would never have kept people safe. Everything happened too easily and successfully. There were so many landmarks in WW2 that could have been used here to portray a sense of reality , all these chances were missed. Having read books like Birdsong about war this felt very light but I was emotional at the end and having visited Auschwitz helped my imagination!

On a positive note Jayne wrote – I really enjoyed the book. I was terrified by the presence of the Nazi’s so felt very differently about it to others. The description of how clothes and furniture had to be used for heat and the daily struggle to get food was awful and I had a real sense of how difficult life must have been. I enjoyed how the book made me wonder throughout whether I’d be the brave sister taking the fight to the Nazis or the docile accepting one who wanted to keep her head down and hope for the best. I decided I would be the latter about half way through. ***** Need to edit this next bit as it is a bit of a spoiler**** I think I mentioned previously my husband’s great-uncle used the escape route out over the Pyrenees. It’s been fascinating to research more of that story and to see the Silver Cross that one of the farmers who hid him gave him when it was time to move on. I probably wouldn’t have got to hear that story if not for the book so I am glad we chose it.

Looking forward to11

There are some very interesting articles to read about women who put their lives in danger by joining the resistance during Word War 2. I have found some information on three women whose work during WW2 had some links with Vianne and Isabelle. You can click on their names to read about the work they carried out to save the lives of so many people during the war and to whom we owe so much.

andree de jong
Andree de Jongh


Nancy Wake
lucie Bernard
Lucie Bernard 

Maybe a visit to the Sort Prison Museum is something to add to our travel agenda next time we visit the south of France.

nightingaleA little more info here for you too.

As usual, we would love to read your comments and thoughts on The Nightingale. Please leave them on our page. Thank you.


Sleeper’s Castle


This was my suggestion for November’s book club. I read ‘The Lady of Hay‘ some  20 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was new, fresh, different and an  exciting  linking of past and present, fiction and non-fiction and was a brilliant, mystical and spine-tingling read. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait to read more books by Barbara Erskine and there then followed a stream of books of hers which I devoured with a passion. And then I stopped reading her. No reason,  just that I moved away from Erskine to read other authors!! So when I saw this book while searching for suggestions for Book Club I jumped at the opportunity to put it forward as our next book, relishing the thought of revisiting the brilliance of Barbara Erskine. 

So, what did I make of it?

It was a very good read. However, having read so many of Barbara Erskine books and thoroughly enjoying them all I have to say that I felt that I had ‘outgrown’ her. I once found the mystery, ghostly quality and supernatural theme running though her books thrilling and intoxicating, they kept making me look over my shoulder while reading and listening for noises late into the night,  but alas, that enthusiasm wasn’t reignited this time round. I felt that this book did not quite have that magic that the others once held for me.  The historical side of Catrin and Dafydd and their involvement with Owain Glyndwr was true to history and very interesting, but their continuous journey around Wales, in and out of castles, singing and entertaining went on 200 miles too far for me!! The modern day story was also a little contrived and predictable and why oh why write a spin off story involving the incredible character of Rhona? I felt she was superfluous to needs.

The story line, plot and character relationships have not changed over 30 years. Miserable/angry handsome male meets unhappy, lost female who instantly dislike each other. The villain / evil  lurks in the background and hated male becomes the hero and misunderstood hate becomes passionate love!! The ending of this novel was very predictable and a bit too neat and tidy for me. Andy, the main character was not very likeable either!!

Now, that all sounds very negative, but I would certainly and wholeheartedly recommend Barbara Erskine to you. If you haven’t read her before you may thoroughly enjoy this book but I would suggest you choose an earlier book, preferably They Lady of Hay if you want to read Barbara Erskine at her very best.

Take a look at what Goodreads has to say about Barbara Erskine. I urge you to choose one of her earlier books to read and enjoy!

At Book Club, the book was a relative success. We all enjoyed it but for those reading the work of Barbara Erskine for the first time, one or two will not be reading her again. Others, I am happy to say, will!

We had a lovely evening this month. Hot soup and fresh crusty bread were on the menu followed by – dare I say it – the first taste of Christmas in the form of mince pies, with plenty of wine, as usual or, for the drivers, tea and coffee and lots of discussion both about the book and the choosing of the next one!!

Yumm! That autumn veg soup was delicious!!
And then there were three!! 
Looking studious!!

Our next meeting is our Christmas night out and the book we are reading is ‘All the Light We cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. Look out for the next blog and please leave a message if you have read either books discussed here. It would be lovely to hear from you.