Thursday, November 6, 2014

G460 Village of Secrets; Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Title of the book: Village of Secrets; Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

Author: Caroline Moorehead

Publisher: Harper

Publishing Date: 2014

ISBN:  978-0-06-220247-5


From the author of the runaway bestseller A Train in Winter comes the extraordinary story of a French village that helped save thousands, including many Jewish children, who were pursued by the Gestapo during World War II.

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ard├Ęche. Surrounded by pastures and thick forests of oak and pine, the plateau Vivarais lies in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Eastern France, cut off for long stretches of the winter by snow. 

During the Second World War, the inhabitants of the area saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, freemasons, communists, downed Allied airmen and above all Jews. Many of these were children and babies, whose parents had been deported to the death camps in Poland. After the war, Le Chambon became the only village to be listed in its entirety in Yad Vashem's Dictionary of the Just.

Just why and how Le Chambon and its outlying parishes came to save so many people has never been fully told. Acclaimed biographer and historian Caroline Moorehead brings to life a story of outstanding courage and determination, and of what could be done when even a small group of people came together to oppose German rule. It is an extraordinary tale of silence and complicity. In a country infamous throughout the four years of occupation for the number of denunciations to the Gestapo of Jews, resisters and escaping prisoners of war, not one single inhabitant of Le Chambon ever broke silence. The story of Le Chambon is one of a village, bound together by a code of honour, born of centuries of religious oppression. And, though it took a conspiracy of silence by the entire population, it happened because of a small number of heroic individuals, many of them women, for whom saving those hunted by the Nazis became more important than their own lives.

The Scholarly Approach:

1.With what particular subject or period does the book deal?

The particular subject or period the book deals with is that of World War II in France as well as people trying to hide Jewish children and what caused them to do such a brave thing.

2.How thorough is the treatment?

While I feel that the narrative seems to be all over the place, the treatment is thorough and the author did research into French history during World War II

3.What were the sources used?

The sources were both primary and secondary, that of interviews and books and so forth.

4.Is the account given in broad outline or in detail?

I think the author couldn't really decide on what to focus thus she tries to give the account in both a broad outline as well as minute detail in some cases.

5.Is the style that of reportorial writing, or is there an effort at interpretive writing?

I honestly am not sure, probably most of it is reportorial writing although there are claims that she attempted to try interpretive writing.

6.What is the point of view or thesis of the author?

"What actually took place on the plateau of the Vivarais-Lignon during the grey and terrifying years of German occupation and Vichy rule is indeed about courage, faith and morality. But it is also about the fallibility of memory." (11)

7.Is the treatment superficial or profound?

For me personally, the treatment seemed more superficial than profound. While there is great detail when it comes to government and its actions as well as the sects of christianity and what might have compelled them to do what they did, the people themselves didn't stand out at all and weren't given as good treatment as I hoped.

8.For what group is the book intended (textbook, popular, scholarly, etc.)?

I am not sure, although from the writing she has attempted to try to appeal to more popular crowd as well as scholarly one.

9.What part does biographical writing play in the book?

While there is focus on the children and the helpers during the area, I feel that she doesn't really explain her motivation on why she chose to write the story, or how she became fascinated by the story.

10.Is social history or political history emphasized?

I think political history is more emphasized than social history because a lot of focus is on dates and things that could have been important issues were mentioned once and not anymore.

11.Are dates used extensively, and if so, are they used intelligently?

The dates are used extensively and intelligently, but again I have to admit that its one of the more confusing non-fictions I've read so far.

12.Is the book a revision? How does it compare with earlier editions?

The book is not a revision

13.Are maps, illustrations, charts, etc. used and how are these to be evaluated?

I have an uncorrected proof copy which means that a lot of photographs weren't inserted yet, and for the photographs that were, there wasn't print in identifying who's who. Perhaps it changed in the final edition?

Personal Opinion:

First of all, I am grateful that people chose to protect whatever Jews they could during that time, and many times Caroline Moorehead did hit on a lot of things that I've been taught when I took Holocaust and Media Representation class. The rating itself doesn't come from the actions or anything, but rather I am judging the book as a casual reader. It is enjoyable in someways, but like a review on goodreads mentions, its difficult to read not only in subject matter, but also because I was confused by characters because there are too many of them, and the brief character sheet doesn't really help. Also, I'm not French nor do I understand French, so I'm confused why French words were used what seems to be almost all the time and why for example a map of neither France nor Europe was provided? The names that were used meant very little to me. I also feel its necessary to add this article that isn't very happy with the book and see both sides of the story:


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 Purchase Links

This is for TLC Book Tour

Caroline’s Tour Stops

Wednesday, October 15th: The Year in Books
Thursday, October 16th: nightlyreading
Friday, October 17th: Back Porchervations
Monday, October 20th: Man of La Book
Tuesday, October 21st: Love at First Book
Wednesday, October 22nd: Ace and Hoser Blook
Thursday, October 23rd: JulzReads
Monday, October 27th: Based on a True Story
Tuesday, October 28th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, October 29th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, November 4th: Books on the Table
Thursday, November 6th: Svetlana’s Reads and Books
Monday, November 10th: Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, November 12th: My Bookshelf
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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