Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The event itself would receive a resounding five stars, but the narrative (or lack thereof) receives only three. Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead tells the story of a small plateau call le Chamblom that hid Jews and other German deemed inappropriate people within their community. I had no idea prior to reading this novel that Vichy, France was a focused and dedicated Nazi headquartered area. Nor did I know that Hitler wanted to take France for his own. I did learn so much reading this novel.
The truly heroic efforts of the people to save other humans was astounding. From food to money to beds to schooling to passports to papers, the people of the le Chamblom plateau and surrounding provinces went above and beyond the call of duty. Relying on the unification of several religious parties, the people came together as a Christ-like entity and reached out to their fellow man. They particularly worked to save the children that had been separated from their parents already deported to camps like Auschwitz. In the end, many of those that helped we know very little about, but what we have creates a legacy of people that were truly selfless.
However, I couldn't tell you who very many of those people were and this is why the book only gets three stars. Moorehead included so many people that they become simply lost in the pages. The best I can offer is there was a man and a woman and another man and another woman and this one was a Darbyist, and this one a Catholic. I have no idea who did what and what connections they had in Vichy or ever who was the true Prefect during this time in France. I can remember a few names: Trocme, Theis, Magda, and two particular teens that really caught my attention: Hanne and Max, who later married, moved to New York and birthed a daughter. Moorehead include too much in this story - it was overwhelming and hard to follow; ten books about the people involved could stem from this one, and probably need to for anyone to really understand who did what to help the Jewish people.
However, I reside myself to the fact that in the end, it doesn't really matter who did what - what matters is they DID. And that has to be enough. I am prompted to learn more about Hanne and Max and hope there's something out there about these two young people that did so much to help the ones younger than them, and found love in the process...this is a story I want to read.
Definitely a book for history buffs and those that might speak French as Moorehead regularly does not translate the words and phrases she uses (and they aren't all obvious from context).
Happy reading...or in the case of this book, at least intense reading.
View all my reviews