Title: A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France
Author: Caroline Moorehead
Genre: Non-fiction, history
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC for a book tour with TLC Book Tours
First line: On 5 January 1942, a French police inspector named Rondeaux, stationed in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, caught sight of a man he believed to be a wanted member of the French Resistance.
In January 1943, two hundred and thirty women of the French Resistance were sent to the death camps by the Nazis who had invaded and occupied their country…..Only forty-nine would survive.
In A Train in Winter, Caroline Moorehead tells the story of the two hundred thirty women – who they were, what drove them to resist the occupying Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy government, the sacrifices they made to serve their cause, and the families they left behind when they were captured.
The forty-nine that survived Auschwitz and Birkenau did so because of a combination of fate and intelligence – and because they faced their imprisonment and captors as a united force. They learned how to fake health and strength to avoid being chosen for the gas chambers. They learned how to trade and steal for extra scraps of food, for tiny bits of medicine. They watched their friends and companions die, one by one. And they survived the most unimaginable circumstances and conditions – conditions so horrific that even members of their own families didn’t believe the stories they told when they came back.
To be honest, this was a very difficult book to read. I admire Moorehead for undertaking the task of telling the story of these women, but, in my opinion, she kept her focus much too broad. As I look back over the non-fiction that I’ve read this year, the ones that were the most engrossing, the most readable, were the ones that focused on a small group of people and told their stories. In A Train in Winter, the author introduces so many of the 230 women that I became completely overwhelmed. There were simply too many names and stories to keep track of.
The first half of the book was spent introducing these women and telling about their activities for the Resistance and the various police investigations that led to their capture, and it took me a long time to become engrossed in the story. The book picked up when the women were taken to Auschwitz, but then the book became difficult to read for a different reason. The magnitude of the atrocities these women experienced was simply overwhelming, and there were times that it became too much and I had to set the book aside. Of course, it is important that the truths of the death camps are told in literature, and I’m glad there are authors who make sure that we never forget. A Train in Winter may not be the easiest read, but the women who embody its pages must never be forgotten.