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The Secret of the Blue Trunk

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  544 ratings  ·  71 reviews
The true story of how a young Québécois nun ended up a prisoner of war in Buchenwald and how her daughter discovered her secrets.

In this true story, Armande Martel, a young nun from Quebec, is arrested by the Germans in 1940 during a stay at her religious order’s mother house in Brittany. She spends the war years in a German concentration camp. After her return to Canada,
ebook, 169 pages
Published January 1st 2013 by Dundurn Group (first published 2011)
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Sarah The French title is Le secret du coffre bleu. It was published in 2011 by Les Editions Libre Expression.

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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  544 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jan-15
I read this book for book club and it is based on a true story. The story is taken from a woman's journal she kept while being a prisoner of war during WWII.
A very good read!
Deborah Stevenson
Feb 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Trite! I am sure this must have been translated from the original French and it leaves something to be desired. A sad story but told without any emotion. Could hardly wait for it to be over.
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I had no idea what I was getting into when I opened this book.

I heard Lise Dion interviewed on CBC while driving along the highway. I immediately called the next book store I was passing and asked them to set aside a copy for me. It was in my hands less than 30 minutes after hearing the interview.

But even the author's interview didn't prepare me for what I was about to embark on. Like any other layman born long after WWII, I've got as much of a sense of the horrors as I can. I've read a h
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A memoir by a Canadian nun who, after spending four years working as a slave labourer for the Nazis, never told anyone about her experiences until revealing all in journals discovered after her death. Her daughter wrote her memoir for her. The writing style is simple, and the author combines the mother's narrative with historical research to give it context. A fascinating story including close-up snapshots of life in both a convent and a Nazi labour camp. Lise Dion has indeed honoured her mother ...more
Michelle Werner
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
A heartbreaking true account of an amazingly strong woman but written more like a list of events, which as it came from a journal, is to be expected I suppose. If you read this book to find out more about the subject you will like it. If you want to connect to the people in the book or want a creative piece of writing that is engaging you will be disappointed. I believe that this poor woman's story could have reached far more people if the daughter had been given greater assistance with the writ ...more
Barbara McVeigh
Imagine your parent leaving you the key to a blue trunk that was always kept locked. What life did your parent have before you were born? What secrets does the blue trunk hold?

Emotional and riveting. A daughter learns more about who her mother really was and what she had to endure.

Some violence and sexual allusions, but suitable for teens.
Deborah Wellum
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Achingly beautiful. True stories are always superior to all other genres in my opinion. No fiction can come close to the unpredictability of a person's life experiences. There is no formula to the plot but rather a raw retelling of events, their effects and the outcome. This account weaves a tale with deep and lasting meaning in the lives of the characters while leaving an indelible impression on the fortunate reader.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought the story was interesting and the writing was good. I'm glad I read it.

I know the journals were a translation, nonetheless the approach used seemed rather odd to me. It was written in the past tense as if Lise had later compiled the daily details and written a summary account of same. Yet the narrator was her mother - as if she were looking back and summarizing those times.

The mother had said in her goodbye letter to Lise that she had always kept a daily diary. I think diaries are ge
Emily Gillespie
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful historical narrative preserved in this book. I read it in one day. Highly recommend. I am curious how much Dion had to edit her mother's diaries for story format. I was also curious about the fate of a few people, such as the infant brother who was 6 months when she was sent to the orphanage. Well written.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Totally fascinating! True story of a Canadian nun imprisoned in Buchenwald during WW2. I had no idea that this had happened. Remarkable story of courage and determination to survive.
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Story Description:

Dundurn|February 16, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1459704510

In this true story, Armande Martel, a young nun from Quebec, is arrested by the Germans in 1940 during a stay at her religious order’s mother house in Brittany. She spends the war years in a German concentration camp. After her return to Canada, she leaves the Church, finds the love of her life in Montreal, and adopts, Lise Dion.

Growing up, Lise is familiar with only a few facts of her mother’s past. It’s when she c
Feb 21, 2016 added it
I am impressed and grateful that this book speaks to the values of friendship and laughter. The secrets in the trunk are the very private memories of author, Lise Dion's mother, Armande Martel. This book is broken down into "Notebooks". The book begins abruptly with the death of Armande and proceeded directly into the discovery of the notebooks. Notebook One is all about life in a convent. Interesting insight into a whole different world -- this was pre World WAR II. Book Two is about an advent ...more
Janice Forman
May 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I continue to be amazed when I read another account of imprisonment in Germany's WWII concentration camps. With each harrowing tale of deprivation, I learn something new about this period of history. Who knew that Catholic Nuns became Prisoners of War and were sent to concentration camps simply because they were Canadian, subjects of Great Britain!

Lise Dion never knew what secrets were hidden in her mother's Blue Trunk, until her mother passed away. While cleaning out her mother's apartment, Lis
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I finished this a while ago for bookclub but just realized I never wrote a review.
I didn't like this book. This was supposedly a true story based on the time the author's mother spent as a prisoner in the 2nd world war. When the mother died she (Ms. Dion) found some notebooks in a blue trunk that described that time in her mother's life. I don't believe that the information found in the books was meant to be published and the daughter should have used the notebooks to help her understand her mo
Aug 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A true story. Armande is only 6 years old when her mother dies. Her father is able to keep her two younger brothers but unable to keep her. She is sent to a Catholic orphanage. When she turns 18, she takes her first vows as a nun. When she completes her vows, she is sent to Guernsey. WWII begun and Armande is arrested as were 2 other Canadian nuns because of Canada's affiliation to Britain. From there she is taken to a concentration camp where she spends the next four years. When she dies, her d ...more
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I first heard the author, Quebec comedienne Lise Dion being interviewed on CBC Radio about this novel. The story sounded so intriguing that I had to add the book to my reading list. I'm happy to say that the book did not disappoint.

Our book club has read a lot of books and memoirs about the European wars so it was refreshing to read a book that offered a different perspective. A young French Canadian nun travels to Europe and as war breaks out, she is interred in a German POW camp. At the time,
Joyce Sandilands
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, bio
A sad, triumphantly moving true story told through a mother's diaries left for her daughter to discover following her death. I found the story mesmerizing because we don't often see the story of prison camps in Europe through a woman's eyes, especially a nun's. I could not put it down and I don't usually read so quickly due to other commitments.

Thank you Lisa for this remarkable tribute to your mother for whom you must have felt so proud. Thanks also for sharing it with the world so we could le
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The story of a Quebec woman who becomes a nun because of circumstances that required her to be raised in a convent. She moves to France and is caught in WWII. She ends up in a Nazi labour camp for 4 years. Upon release, the Catholic Church unceremoniously advises her she is no longer welcome to return to her former life as a nun. This is a heart wrenching story and one I couldn't put down. It was based on 5 notebooks that the author found upon her mother's death. My only wish is that it could ha ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a nice simple straight forward book that tugged at my heart strings. I really enjoyed her description of being raised by nuns and then becoming a nun. I'd not read much about this. The time in German captivity was a much more familiar story in my reading history. Still it's a necessary reminder to never forget this inhumanity of one people to another. The aftermath of the war for Armande was very surprising to me!
Neat short read!
I'm fascinated with reading journals/diaries which had been kept by my family members in the past so this little book intrigued me. What's even more amazing is that it's the true story of Lise Dion's mother and her secrets which she concealed in her blue trunk. What a surprising life Armande had lived and kept secret from everyone. It also fed into my fascination of WWII and German prison camps.
Tracy Willcott
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
The story was a fantastic one....however the writing was awful (it sounded like it was written by a 10 year old) I realize now it has been translated from French; I'm guessing the nuances were lost. However, it is a compelling true story of a Canadian nun sent to a work camp during the Nazi occupation. It was a story I have never heard of until now.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it liked it
It doesn't matter how many books I read on the subject of war, I always find it difficult to read about the inhumane treatment of prisoners. I was angriest, but not surprised, to read how Armande was abandoned by her religious community.

The story is told succinctly and simply. And until she was so dispasionately discarded by the her curch, almost without judgement.
Zuzana Baker sudiova
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a story.. I come from (the former) Czechoslovakia, which greatly suffered during WW2. I knew about the jewish hardship, but I had no idea that even british or canadian citizens were arrested. This brings a whole new understanding of the war and makes me wonder about how lucky we are to have what we have. Thank you for sharing this story with us Lise xx
Jun 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This probably lost something in the translation from the original French. Compelling true story, not particularly well written. About what you would expect reading anyone's private journal I suppose. A title less like a Nancy Drew mystery title would have served it better. Would make a really interesting basis for a longer fictionalized novel version though
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I know others have said they weren't happy with the writing style, but this was a woman's journal, not a book. This woman had one heck of a story to tell, by the way. I found it moving and inspiring. I would have liked a bit more follow up on those in the camp with her, but it doesn't appear she kept in contact with anyone. This is definitely worth the read.
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Another personal story of survival in WWII concentration camp. Written by former nun who married and lived in Quebec, Canada, her daughter discovers her adopted mother's story written in a blue trunk that had been verbotten to her all her life.
Micheline Forgues theriault
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love Lise Dion has a stand-up comedian. In this book she writes her mother's story, the story Lise never knew about before her mom passed away. Very touching, the women revealing the horror of the Nazi camps.
Ruth Henault
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Young novice nun from Chicoutimi is in Europe at the beginning of WW1 - imprisoned for 5 years as an enemy alien - her daughter learns her mother's story only after her death, thru her hidden notebooks. Gripping - read it in one session!
Denise Griffin
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book. never thought about the Canadian people arrested while living in Europe. I am always amazed at the cruelty that some will inflict and amazed even more that people survive.

May Armande rest in peace
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A story of a Canadian woman who suffered the most horrific fate and who's daughter find her journal and writes her story after she is gone.
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