The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

August 1939
France

Vianne Mauriac left the cool, stucco-walled kitchen //and stepped out into her front yard.// On this
beautiful summer morning in the Loire Valley, everything was in bloom.// White sheets flapped in the
breeze //and roses tumbled like laughter //along the ancient stone wall that hid her property from the road. //
A pair of industrious bees buzzed among the blooms; //from far away, she heard the chugging purr of a
train// and then the sweet sound of a little girl’s laughter.

Sophie. //

Vianne smiled. //Her eight-year-old daughter was probably running through the house, making her
father dance attendance on her //as they readied for their Saturday picnic.

“Your daughter is a tyre =]” Antoine said, appearing in the doorway. //

He walked toward her, //his pomaded hair glinting black in the sunlight. //He’d been working on his
furniture this morning — sanding a chair that was already as soft as satin //— and a fine layer of wood dust
peppered his face and shoulders. //He was a big man, tall and broad shouldered, with a rough face and a
dark stubble that took constant effort to keep from becoming a beard. //

He slipped an arm around her and pulled her close. “I love you, V.” //

“I love you, too.” //

It was the truest fact of her world. //She loved everything about this man, //his smile, //the way he
mumbled in his sleep //and laughed after a sneeze// and sang opera// in the shower. //

She’d fallen in love with him fifteen years ago, //on the school play yard,// before she’d even known
what love was. //He was her first everything //— first kiss, first love, first lover. //Before him, she’d been a
skinny, awkward, anxious girl given to stuttering when she got scared, which was often. //

A motherless girl. //

You will be the adult now, her father had said to Vianne as they walked up to this very house for the
first time. //She’d been fourteen years old, //her eyes swollen from crying, //her grief unbearable.// In an
instant, this house had gone from being the family’s summer house to a prison of sorts.// Maman had
been dead less than two weeks when Papa gave up on being a father.