Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Blog Tour Stop - A Train In Winter by Caroline Moorhead

About A Train in Winter:

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: Harper Perennial (October 23, 2012)

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.

I feel like I'm pretty knowledgeable about the events of World War II, having read numerous books about the war and all its aspects, but I found that after reading Caroline Moorhead's book, "A Train In Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship and Resistance in Occupied France," I was incredibly naive about the history of the French Resistance movement and the women involved in it.

Moorhead takes her readers deep into the very heart of the French resistance to the occupation of Nazi Germany in 1940 as she tells the stories of 230 women who were arrested, for various reasons including work with the resistance, being communists, or simply being sympathetic to those who opposed the Nazis, and taken to one of the worst concentration camps, Auschwitz.

SS officers from Auschwitz

These women were mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, and their stories are heartbreaking, infuriating, and at times rather depressing, but all are so important to read and remember so that something like this never, ever happens again. Of the 230 women who were sent to the death camps together, the youngest was a fifteen year old schoolgirl who had written "Vive les Anglais" on the walls of her school and the oldest was a sixty-seven year old widow who ran a boarding house that was know to hide resistance members. There were several sets of sisters (only one set survived together), there were mother/daughters, and there were childhood friends.

By the time the death camps were liberated, only 49 women of the original 230 had survived.

"A Train In Winter" is a powerful book to read.  There are parts that are rather dry as Moorhead sets the stage for the tragedy that would soon occur, but as I read deeper in the book, I found myself invested in the lives of these brave women and mourning their tragedies and celebrating their triumphs along with them.

I highly recommend this book for those interested in history, World War II, and stories of strong, brave women.

from "A Train In Winter" - Women soon after arrival in Auschwitz

About Caroline Moorehead:

Caroline Moorehead is the biographer of Bertrand Russell, Freya Stark, Iris Origo, and Martha Gellhorn. Well known for her work in human rights, she has published a history of the Red Cross and an acclaimed book about refugees, Human Cargo. Her previous book was Dancing to the Precipice, a biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin. She lives in London and Italy.

Caroline’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 23rd: An Unconventional Librarian
Wednesday, October 24th: Book Him Danno!
Thursday, October 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, October 26th: Seaside Book Corner crossposted at Bagels, Books and Schmooze
Tuesday, October 30th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, October 31st: Maple & a Quill
Monday, November 5th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, November 6th: Between the Covers
Wednesday, November 7th: The Written World
Thursday, November 8th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Friday, November 9th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, November 12th: What She Read … - joint review
TBD: In the Next Room
TBD: The House of the Seven Tails

My Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this blog tour, and for supplying the review copy of this book.  I was not compensated for my opinion.


Mystica said...

I like this period in history and this sounds such a good book.

trish said...

Everyone who's been on this tour has commented on how they never knew this part of World War II! I hope they make a movie about this. I would love for this to become more common knowledge.

Thanks for being on the tour!