“A slow moving book with some good history... And an unexplored facet of World War II.”MS wrote this review Sunday, March 18, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Recounts the involvement of French women in the Resistance Movement in France under German occupation. Follows the experience, arrest and internment of 230 women. They were in the Nazi camps for 29 months and used their wits, friendship, and support of each other to combat the horrors of the camps. Forty-nine survived.”Verna L wrote this review Sunday, February 26, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I just finished reading "A Train in Winter" by Caroline Moorehead. It's basically about the women of the French Resistance in WWII and how they bonded together to form a community that allowed at least some of them to survive Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. Of the 230 women picked up by the French police and the Gestapo (the youngest was 15, the oldest 67), only 48 of them returned. That was due almost exclusively to the tight community they formed together to protect each other.
What was so poignant to me at the end of the book was the recap of what had happened in those survivors' lives. Of the 48 there was only one woman who went on to live what she called a happy life, and that was because her husband and son were both so receptive to her needs. The women had made a pact together in the camp that whoever survived would tell the world what went on inside the camps. They kept detailed records of everything on small pieces of paper. And this woman's husband and son were very sensitive to her need to tell what she knew. The others' families didn't want to know what had happened to their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters. It was too painful for the families to know what the women had gone through.
So the rest of them felt like they didn't have a right to be unhappy because they were so blessed to be free and at home now, but they were no longer the same women who went into those camps, and that new woman had to come home and live with them, too. Their families didn't want to get to know those new women. So they were constantly unhappy and feeling guilty about feeling unhappy and not being able to tell their stories as they had promised. What an awful place to be in. What an important reminder that we need to really learn to listen to one another.
Unlike some books, this one did not play up the emotional horrors of the camps. It just said what happened and how. It was quite an eye-opening book.”
“A hard to book to read and not just because of the subject matter. I should never have tried to read it while on vacation! It is a remarkable story of friendship and survival, but I found myself a little frustrated and even confused. Because you are dealing with so many women, it is was almost liek reading a lundry list, particularly in the beginning. Especailly in the beginning, there was not enough information (at least for me) to ever really connect yourself to these women. That said, I did learn alot about France and the resistance there, and the difference in how political prisoners and Jews were treated by the Germans.Their friendship and taking care of each other is what helped them survive. Am I glad I read this book..yes, but I can hardly wait to read something a little lighter now!”Heather B wrote this review Friday, January 20, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The book was a memorable story of a group of french women in the resistance , who are captured by the Nazi's and are sent to 3 different camps in 3 years. It speaks of their treatment and how they supported one another to survive. Many perished. It then talks of their release to regular life and their struggles to resume when they endured and lost so much. It was a book that made a great impression on me for the horrors that occured and the intense drive for these women to survive.”Laura B wrote this review Monday, January 9, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“ I don't read a ton of nonfiction related to WWII because I'm a softie and a wimp. (And mildly obsessive when it comes to traumatic events; I'm a chronic 24/7 CNN-er during disasters.) All this is to say it has to be a certain kind of nonfiction to lure me from my slightly safer world of fiction.
Moorehead's book intrigued me from the first for two reasons: one, I loved her bio of the marvelous Martha Gellhorn; and two, I love books that emphasize female friendships. That this book was set among WWII French resistors just sealed the deal (one of my favorite films is based on Sebastian Faulks' Charlotte Grey).
This isn't an easy book to get into: Moorehead has a brisk, dry style and the first three or four chapters are a barrage of people, places, dates, and events. It is easy to feel overwhelmed but these chapters rather quickly sketch out the feel of France under German occupation, the changes the Germans wrought, and context-ing the roots of the various Resistance movements. (For example, there are numerous Parisian neighborhoods with communist families; Moorehead later argues that the women who were active in the Communist Party fared better than some of the non-political prisoners due to the training and upbringing.)
The book went from merely interesting to gripping when the narrative moved from establishing context and setting to recounting the torturous way these resistors were treated upon being captured. Moorehead interviewed a few of the survivors still living, as well as their families, and used a wealth of other materials to make those years of imprisonment real. As the subtitle suggests, she does focus on the friendships between these women, who all agree it was part of the reason they survived as long as they did.
There are a ton of photographs included in the book which is marvelous (and disturbing and heartbreaking) and makes the stories of these women all the more real. Upon finishing, I teared up: Moorehead made these women real for me and I felt real sorrow for them. Even those who survived faced ongoing pain and heartache. Despite that, I don't regret reading this, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in women's lives during wartime. This is a slender book -- about 300 pages -- and it's gripping. I know I just got done emphasizing how sad it is but because of that, it's a compelling read. ”