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440 pages, Hardcover
First published October 8, 2015
1. Chaos. Dust. Crowds. The street was a living, breathing dragon of humanity, inching forward, wheezing dirt, honking horns; people yelling for help, babies crying, and the smell of sweat heavy in the air.
2. like flotsam in the reeds of a muddy river
3. Like a thousand-legged centipede, the crowd moved forward into the great hall. [Side rant: as for this “thousand-legged centipede” does she perhaps mean a MILLIPEDE?!]
4. The refugees who had arrived before her would have moved through the town like locusts, buying every foodstuff on the shelves.
5. clothes so tattered and patched she was reminded of the war refugees who’d so recently shuffled through Paris, hoarding cigarettes and bits of paper and empty bottles, begging for change or help. [Isabelle, when meeting Gaetan—notice how she’s not part of these “war refugees” even though SHE WAS.]
6. There were dozens of people in her yard; mostly women and children, moving like a pack of hungry wolves. Their voices melded into a single desperate growl.
7. The crowd surged around him like water around a rock
1. but what about the coming winter? How could Sophie stay healthy without meat or milk or cheese? [Because bread, vegetables, and fruits were in abundance in wartime winters]
2. She had sold off her family’s treasures one by one: a painting to feed the rabbits and chickens through the winter [EAT. THE FUCKING. RABBITS. This is Europe in the 1940s for fuck’s sake. Eat the goddamn rabbits.]
3. Moments later, she carried out a heavy ceramic tray bearing the fried fish surrounded by the pan-roasted vegetables and preserved lemons, all of it enhanced with fresh parsley. The tangy, lemony sauce in the bottom of the pan, swimming with crusty brown bits, could have benefited from butter, but still it smelled heavenly. [Wartime poverty equals no butter, got it.]
3. “There is no food here in the city, Isabelle ... People are raising Guinea pigs for food. You will be more comfortable in the country, where there are gardens.” [As long as you have a garden, you’re fine.]
4. Vianne began finely chopping the mutton. She added a precious egg to the mix, and stale bread, then seasoned it with salt and pepper.
Vianne sat down beside Sophie. She thought about their old life—laughter, kisses, family suppers, Christmas mornings, lost baby teeth, first words.
Vianne was fine—she had been released after questioning—but another soldier, or soldiers, was billeted there. She crumpled the paper and tossed it in the fire. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or more worried. Instinctively, her gaze sought out Gaetan, who was watching her as he spoke to an airman.
Why did girls feel like something was missing from that quote in its original form? … Because the message that we constantly receive is that girls are not valuable without beauty.
1. “[Gaetan] won’t think I’m pretty anymore.”
2. Vianne kissed [Isabelle’s] cheek. “You’re beautiful,” she said.
3. When he drew back, he stared down at her and the love in her eyes burned away everything bad; it was just them again, Gaetan and Isabelle, somehow falling in love in a world at war. “You’re as beautiful as I remember,” he said.
4. It didn’t matter that she was broken and ugly and sick. He loved her and she loved him.
1. “I thought she was reckless and irresponsible and almost too beautiful to look at.”
2. “Isabelle Rossignol died both a hero and a woman in love.”
“You should take a break, maybe. Let someone else do your mountain trips.”
[Isabelle] gave [her father] a pointed look. Did people say things like this to men? Women were integral to the Resistance. Why couldn’t men see that?
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Isabelle. Paris is overrun. The Nazis control the city. What is an eighteen-year-old girl to do about all of that?”
“Vianne cupped Sophie’s thin face in her hands. “Sarah died last night,” she said gently.
“Died? She wasn’t sick.”
Vianne steeled herself. “It happens that way sometimes. God takes you unexpectedly. She’s gone to Heaven. To be with her grandmère, and yours.”
Sophie pulled away, got to her feet, backed away. “Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
Vianne hated what she saw in her daughter’s eyes right now. There was nothing young in her gaze—no innocence, no naïveté, no hope.”
In the silence between them, she heard a frog croak and the leaves fluttering in a jasmine-scented breeze above their heads. A nightingale sang a sad and lonely song.
He stood up slowly and took her in his arms. She wanted to bottle how safe she felt in this moment, so she could drink of it later when loneliness and fear left her parched...
“I love you,” he said against her lips.
“I love you, too,” she said but the words that always seemed so big felt small now. What was love when put up against war.
“You needn’t worry, Madame,” he said. “We have been admonished to act as gentlemen. My mother would demand the same, and, in truth, she scares me more than my general.” It was such an ordinary remark that Vianne was taken aback.
She had no idea how to respond to this stranger who dressed like the enemy and looked like a young man she might have met at church…
He remained where he was, a respectful distance from her. “I apologize for any inconvenience, Madame.”
"My husband will be home soon.”
“We all hope to be home soon.”
Her beloved city was like a once-beautiful courtesan grown old and thin, weary, abandoned by her lovers. In less than a year, this magnificent city had been stripped of its essence by the endless clatter of German jackboots on the streets and disfigured by swastikas that flew from every monument.
On this cool October morning, her life would change. From the morning she boarded this train… she would no longer be the girl in the bookshop…
From now on, she was Juliette Gervaise, code name the Nightingale.
“Please… Just say strong and be there for me when the time comes for me to leave this cage… Because of you, I can survive. I hope that you can find strength in me, too, V. That because of me, you will find a way to be strong.
Hold my daughter tightly tonight, and tell her that somewhere far away, her papa is thinking of her. And tell her I will return.
I love you.”
“I love you, Antoine Mariac, and I expect you to come home to me.”