This book recounts the journey of 230 French women who were arrested and imprisoned for participating in the French Resistance during the German occupThis book recounts the journey of 230 French women who were arrested and imprisoned for participating in the French Resistance during the German occupation of France in WWII. Many of these women did not know each other before they ended up in prison together, and as they were grouped together by their captors quickly formed a bond and found ways to look out after each other as a way to get through their dire circumstances. Ranging in ages from 15 to mid-60s at the time of their capture, they were subjected to the most horrid of circumstances of wartime prison labor camps - the living conditions propagated disease and starvation, and the German prison wardens inflicted some of the worst forms of abuse imaginable. The prisoners who were physically the strongest could endure more suffering and still be able to work, which was a plus in the eyes of their captors who needed them to produce to feed the massive German war machine. Weaker prisoners were singled out for beatings and other severe punishment and then left to die or be executed. As hard as it is to imagine, things got worse when they were transported from the labor camps to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Given what was happening there, it was a miracle any of these women made it through alive and clearly many did not. If there is such a thing as a fate worse than death, these women experienced it. The depth of evil that people are capable of inflicting on each other rightfully shocks the sensibilities of anyone with a shred of morality. How on earth could anyone maintain a shred of sanity being subjected to this sort of thing? Reading about it boggles the mind. Somehow, these French women found a way to hold it together as long as they could and devised many ways to take care of each other in a manner that survived scrutiny and punishment by their captors. It is a remarkable story.
The book itself was difficult to read, not just for the subject matter but also due to the writing. The first part of the book that introduces many of these women and describes their Resistance activities was disjointed. The vignettes were brief and random - nothing to tie it together. I struggled during the first 100 pages of the book to follow what was happening and to get into any flow of the story. Perhaps the lack of cohesion in the story line was intentional as a way to illustrate the chaos of occupied France and what people were going through at the time, but it was challenging for me as a reader. The ending of the book in particular was very powerful, and as a good book should makes a lingering impression and a story one is not apt to forget. In all it was a lot to digest. Read this book, if for no other reason than to absorb the story of these people. Their stories must be told and we must listen and remember them....more
This is a somewhat difficult book to evaluate. The story of her life is intense and ultimately tragic, yet the kernel of triumph is that she was ableThis is a somewhat difficult book to evaluate. The story of her life is intense and ultimately tragic, yet the kernel of triumph is that she was able to emerge despite the most challenging of circumstances that would crush anyone. The book is written in Billie's own voice; great because you get the real feel of this woman, but I think her co-author could have done so much more to flesh out some of the details, which is where the book fell flat. She endured some unimaginable circumstances - raped at the age of 10 and jailed for it (!), raised in poverty by a mother who had her at 13 and bounced around between living with her mother and other relatives, drug addiction, living through the great depression and WWII, racism and Jim Crow laws, and preyed on by unscrupulous 'managers' who took advantage of her financially and sexually. What endures is the story of her amazing talent.
The bonus of this book was the tribute CD that came with it! Music she made popular performed by other artists - terrific. Deborah Cox performing Fine and Mellow is absolutely wonderful....more