Caroline Moorehead builds her extraordinary narrative about 230 women who participated in the French resistance during World War II by weaving together first-person accounts from interviews, diaries, letters, and photographs. The first half sets the scene in France. The second follows the women to prison and then to concentration camps where their friendships and cooperation became crucial.
NPR’s All Things Considered carried an interview with the author in November, when she spoke about four survivors who were willing to share their stories with her. One was only 17 when she joined the resistance.
HarperCollins offers large parts of the book online here.
Recommend this one to teens fascinated by World War II, the Holocaust, or the role of women in war.
Adult/High School–For many of us, our knowledge of the French Resistance is a vague idea about the Maginot Line and the Vichy government, and the movie Casablanca. A Train in Winter illuminates the Resistance for readers, focusing on 230 women caught, imprisoned and sent to “work camps” by the Nazis. The author’s painstaking research brings these women to life, making what might have been an unwieldy cast of characters seem much smaller. The story of these individuals, from their pre-German invasion lives, their actions during the Resistance, through imprisonment (all eventually ending up at Romainville, a fort outside Paris, before becoming part of the Convoi des 31000 sent to Auschwitz and then Ravensbrück) and death (49 survived their time in the camps) is interwoven with a history of the war from a point of view not widely known to today’s students. It is important to remember that these were political prisoners and thus treated somewhat differently than the Jews, Gypsies, and others rounded up as part of the Final Solution; for example, after a couple years they were allowed to exchange letters with, and receive packages from, their families. This book not only expands knowledge of the Second World War but is also a testament to human survival and ingenuity in the face of extreme evil.–Laura Pearle, Venn Consultants, Carmel, NY