Audra (Unabridged Chick)'s Reviews > A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead
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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.

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Reading Progress

11/03/2011 page 33
9.0% "I started tearing up just reading Moorehead's intro."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Oh, wow.

Audra (Unabridged Chick) I know, right? She wrote that great Gellhorn bio so I'm pretty psyched plus, I understand she's focusing the emphasis to be about female friendship and not just their wartime experiences and you know how much I love positive female friendships represented in print!

message 3: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell OMG, Gellhorn! I CAN'T REMEMBER IF I HAVE THAT, WHAT THE SHIT. I have a really annoying one written by Some Dude.

Audra (Unabridged Chick) YES -- I think you warned me off the one by the Some Dude so I got Moorehead's version which was amazing and so I couldn't pass up being on the tour for this book. So.excited (even if WWII Holocaust stuff kind of makes me want to die).

message 5: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Gellhorn is just such a badass. ARGH now I need to go through the living room shelves to see if I have this book or not....I think I didn't get it because I already have two biographies of her! But they're both bad (and both by dudes, I think).

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