Author: Caroline Moorehead (Website)
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial - October 23, 2012 (reprint)
Source: publisher / TLC Book Tours
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(I received this book 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.)
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.