Review: A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

Posted November 6, 2012 by Heather in Book Reviews / 14 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Train in Winter by Caroline MooreheadA Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead
Published by Harper Perennial on October 23, 2012 (reprint)
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

Goodreads | Amazon

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera; a midwife; a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of sixteen, who scrawled "V" (for victory) on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to one another, hailing from villages and cities across France--230 brave women united in defiance of their Nazi occupiers--they were eventually hunted down by the Gestapo. Separated from home and loved ones, imprisoned in a fort outside Paris, they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

Drawing on interviews with these women and their families, and on documents in German, French, and Polish archives, A Train in Winter is a remarkable account of the extraordinary courage of ordinary people--a story of bravery, survival, and the enduring power of female friendship.

(from the back cover)

Like me, I’m sure many of you have read a ton of stuff about World War II and Nazi Germany: the horrible way people were treated, the labor camps, the death camps, and the millions of people who were murdered in the name of purification. I think this is the first book I have read that makes the story so personal, though. In A Train in Winter, Caroline Moorehead writes about the women who were major players in the Resistance against the German occupation of France. For me, reading about these women and the finer details of their experiences made me think about this subject in new ways. We’re all familiar with the statistics–millions of men, women, and children were executed by the Nazis–but I think that sometimes, concerning events of this magnitude, we begin to think of atrocities only in terms of statistics. In some cases, this happens for very good reason; sometimes we need to think in terms of statistics to be able to wrap our heads around an atrocity of this size.

Personally, though, I am so glad that I decided to read this book. It was good for me to read about individual acts of rebellion and resistance. It was good for me to read about these women and their parents, husbands, children, and friends. It was good for me to read about the specific experiences these women and their families went through, the sacrifices they made, how courageous they were, how determined they were, how they stuck together even during the very worst of it, how they took care of one another, and how they continued to rebel even under the most terrifying circumstances they would ever have to face.

And they were women. This is so important to me. While men and women alike can be courageous, daring, and selfless when need be, it is often the men we hear about. The men tend to get the spotlight, and although the women may be mentioned here and there, they are often relegated to the wings. Caroline Moorehead gives the women of the French Resistance center stage, as they deserve. And these women were some of the most courageous, selfless people I have ever read about. I am still in awe.

If you’d like to learn more about the German occupation of France and the Resistance that ensued, or if you’d like to learn more about these particular women and their roles in the Resistance, I highly recommend Caroline Moorehead’s A Train in Winter.

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  • I JUST got this book in the mail from the Book of the Month Club. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but the synopsis looked interesting. Glad to see it here – and to read a review. Looking forward to it even more now!

  • I’m with you. I love reading about how women changed or helped with things in the past. Great review.

  • I read another review of this book on Maple & a Quill (also part of the blog tour), and it sounds amazing. It sounds like the type of book that is really difficult to read but that is all the more important because of that. I’m really interested to learn about the efforts of women to fight the Nazis. Adding this to my list!

  • I think the French Resistance is something that we don’t hear enough about. It was so significant, and I love seeing that there’s a new book out that sheds light on that fact. The area where I live in France was known as the “Haut Lieu de la Resistance” (the “high place” of the Resistance), because there were so many resistance fighters here in the Vercors mountains.

    Thanks for the review–I’ll definitely be adding this one to my to-read list.

  • I am glad that you found a good WWII book to meet some of your needs!!! 🙂 This one sounds really good and I will have to pick it up. I enjoy reading books where people went against the pack and did what was truly right as opposed to going with the flow.

  • therelentlessreader

    Great review! I’m putting this on my list 🙂 I’m a history junkie and I have a feeling that this will be fab.

  • I had the same reaction. The strength and endurance of these women combined with the atrocities was too much to bear at times. I had never read anything quite like it, in terms of perspective. It’s a book I want many more people to read. The detail and the personality included in the main women discussed was just fascinating.

  • I reviewed this one as well, Heather. Always good to read your thoughts. 🙂

  • You are so right that many of the books and movies focus on men – this book is a much needed look at what women can and did do when it really mattered.

    Thanks for being on the tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.

  • Pingback: Caroline Moorehead, author of A Train in Winter, on tour October/November 2012 | TLC Book Tours()

  • Wonderful review, Heather. The historical aspect appeals to me.

  • Pingback: Reading Wrap-Up: November 2012 | Between the Covers()

  • This one is on my list! Thank you for the great review.

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