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A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of…

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and… (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Caroline Moorehead

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Title:A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France
Authors:Caroline Moorehead
Info:Harper (2011), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead (2011)

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I received this book free through a Goodreads giveaway.
  ava-st-claire | Feb 21, 2014 |
Very conflicted on how many stars to give as there are some structural problems early on and some less than stellar writing toward the end; however, the stories of these women are the heart of the book and Moorehead does them justice, I think.

This was a chilling, horrifying read, and it made me despair for the way I was taught history back in the 80s. I should probably say that this helped contextualize and humanize the political policies described in a dry-as-dust history of the pre-war period I've been reading. It also helped greatly to dispel the false image of the French Resistance as all male, rifle-wielding, beret-sporting Maquis. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
I found this to be a very difficult book to read; in fact, at one point I had to put it aside and read something a bit lighter. The first section of the book introduces us to some of the women we are to follow along on this adventure. The second section introduces us to the work of men & women who resisted the German occupiers of France. Moorehead also covers the complicity of the Vichy Government including their part in rounding up French Jews and shipping them to concentration camps.
How the women are discovered or snitched on is explained and then we follow them to French prisons where they are tortured and abused. Eventually they are shipped by train to Auschwitz in Poland where the real terror begins. Stripped, hair cut off, dressed in flimsy striped dresses and then put in drafty, barren buildings, they witness the abuse and death of their new home. Soon they are working the cold with few clothes and little food plagued by lice, fleas and disease. Soon they are watching their friends die but they come up with plans to help one another survive. Only a few made it through the ordeal. Moorehead interviewed a few of the survivors.
At the back of the book, she lists all the French women who were transported to Auschwitz and what eventually happened to them. ( )
  lamour | Dec 22, 2013 |
I give this book 2 1/2 stars, but between pages 151-293 I'd give it 4 stars, the problem is getting there.

Too many characters to keep track of, too many individual stories get in the way of the flow of the story. I would have focused on a few of the main characters and let them drive the story. The other tact would have been to make a bunch of short stories that could have worked in many characters.

The story got interesting right before they left for the concentration camps. What happened before the pages mentioned above was very tedious and hard to get through, in some cases boring. In some places there is not enough information but a name and crime committed and not much else.

It was an interesting story, but I feel it should have been handled differently. ( )
  foof2you | Oct 31, 2013 |
"When we tell people...who will believe us?"

I have never read or witnessed such solidarity, friendship, and sisterhood that crossed all socio-economic, religious, and political lines like those described in A Train in Winter. These women were in the very belly of hell on earth. What began as resistance quickly transitioned into surviving against the worst of odds.

"Maybe we didn't pray enough?"

Pockets of resistance were forming all over France as a response to the German occupation. Intellectuals, political activists, and regular citizens all were making their mark in the Resistance movement. Women, men, and teenagers were fighting for a common goal which was to bring about a "rebirth of a pure and free France." German occupiers were determined to breakup and infiltrate the resistance networks.

"Some days,...I think I have reached the limits of horror."

As the war wore on many of the resisters were sent to prison and released and others were executed or tortured to death. On August 1, 1942, 230 Resistance women began a journey that they would never forget. After brief stays at two prisons these women found their final destinations in concentration camps such as Birkenau and Auschwitz. What keep them alive were the friendships they formed while in those prisons. None of these women were over 44.

Moorehead gave so much background and minor details about these women (and men) until I became so invested in their lives and had to keep reading. There were moments that I had to reflect on the fact that these were real people who had to endure suffering that my mind could not even comprehend. It was to point where one women said that, "The grotesque had become normal." When freedom came all were somewhat numb and soon found they would never really be free again.

Among the women there were two that I paid close attention to: Danielle Casanova and Adelaide Hautvale. Adelaide seen and had to assist with human experimentation at the hand of some of the infamous Nazi doctors. Her reports were devastating. Danielle Casanova was a young dentist and a true fighter.

There were two non-human characters that were ever present, hunger and The Marseillaise. The hunger was persistent. The description of the hunger that these women and men had to endure jumped off the pages. Just when you thought these women and men were broken there would be a breakout into the singing of The Marseillaise. It was their motivational song that marked each journey.

A Train in Winter is packed full of details and at times read like a textbook. There were so many names until they became overwhelming early on. By the end, I was saying, "I don't know how they made it." Moorehead wrote about these women with a certain dignity that they all deserved. What was even more remarkable to me more so than their friendship was how the Arts always seemed to bring up their spirits. Many times putting on plays and playing music seemed to even calm the Nazi beasts all around them. I am so happy that Moorehead told these women's stories and may their names always rang throughout history. They should never be forgotten.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher. The views and opinions shared are my own. ( )
  pinkcrayon99 | Jul 22, 2013 |
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What surprised the Parisians, standing in little groups along the Champs-Elysees to watch the German soldiers take over their city in the early hours of 14 June 1940, was how youthful and healthy they looked.
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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 15 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 each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only 49 would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival — and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.
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In January 1943, the Gestapo hunted down 230 women of the French Resistance and sent them to Auschwitz. This is their story, told in full for the first time--a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival, and the power of friendship to transcend evil that is an essential addition to the history of World War II.… (more)

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