A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead strives to shed light on the occupation of France by Germany during World War II and the rise of the French Resistance, particularly the role of women within the resistance.  Of the 230 women who were arrested and sent to Auschwitz in Poland, less than 50 survived, and seven were alive when Moorehead began researching and writing this account of their story.  Impeccably well researched, the book takes readers behind the scenes of the French Resistance, and in many ways the level of detail presented can be overwhelming, especially for those not well acquainted with the ins and outs of the time period.  However, this iteration of facts, times, places, and events serves to demonstrate just how confusing a time the German occupation of France was for those who lived it and sought to overcome it.

“In a rising mood of hostility and mockery, they went around repeating their favourite jokes.  ‘Collaborate with the Germans?’ went one.  ‘Think of Voltaire . . . A true Aryan must be blond like Hitler, slender like Goring, tall like Goebbels, young like Petain, and honest like Laval.’  Another started with the question:  ‘Do you know what happened?’ At 9.20, a Jew killed a German soldier, opened his breast and ate his heart!  Impossible!  For three reasons:  Germans have no hearts.  Jews don’t eat pork.  And at 9.20 everyone is listening to the BBC.'” (page 34 ARC)

Clearly, Moorehead’s forte is in biography and she is deft at handling facts and ensuring that they are well explained in accordance with interrelated events and moments in time, but the text is often dry and tough to remain engaged in.  However, even among these facts, there are pockets of emotion where mothers decide to ship their children to foster families or relatives outside Paris so that they can continue working with the Resistance without endangering the lives of their children.  Still others opt to include their children in the fight to restore a free France.  Moorehead fills in some of the history and familial background in for certain women, but in a way, this litany of facts detracts from the ability of the reader to connect more emotionally to these women.

“Half a litre of black coffee in the morning watery soup at midday, 300 grams of bread — if they were lucky — with either a scrape of margarine, a bit of sausage, cheese or jam at night, was not enough to stop the women’s bodies shrinking and feeding on themselves, the fat disappearing first and then the muscles.  The food never varied.”  (page 203 ARC)

It is not until part two that some readers will become truly engaged in the story as the women are tortured and learn to cope with their sparse surroundings at Auschwitz.  The bravery and solidarity of these women is phenomenal.  Unless readers are willing to wade through the political ins and outs of the early French Resistance and occupation of France and the French police’s collaboration with German occupiers, they may not make it to the more engaging and heart wrenching parts of the story.  Moorehead has chosen to tell a true story and to ensure that those who were present have their say in how that story is told, but it may have served better for the story to focus on just a few of the women from the beginning, allowing them to be the face of the others’ struggles.

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead is a tale of survival that needs to be told and remembered.  As one of the women from the resistance said after having survived cancer longer than expected, “Surviving is something that she is very good at.”  (page 6 ARC)


To visit the other stops on the TLC Book Tour, click the icon on the left.



About the Author:

The author of numerous biographies and works of history, including Gellhorn and Human Cargo, Caroline Moorehead has also written for The Telegraph, The Times, and The Independent. The cofounder of a legal advice center for asylum seekers from Africa, she divides her time between England and Italy.


This is my 74th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Thankfully Reading Weekend 2011

I played this challenge by ear this weekend.  And managed to finish James Jones’ To the End of the War, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston, and A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead.

I’ll be finishing the section of Stephen King’s IT for the read-a-long I’m hosting with Anna, who will have the part 4 discussion post on her blog for Nov. 30.  I hope you’ll join us.

In the meantime, I hope everyone who participated did as well as I did and that you had a great time reading, tweeting, etc.

I’m Hosting Mailbox Monday #148

First, I would like to congratulate (Bibliophile by the Sea) on winning Where Am I Going by Michelle Cromer from the last Mailbox Monday giveaway.

Stay tuned for the next giveaway later on in the post, but for now, let’s get to this week’s post.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. Thanks to Amused by Booksfor hosting last month.

As host for this month, I have a couple giveaways planned, but mostly its about sharing books and the love of reading, so I hope in addition to leaving your post links in Mr. Linky that you’ll peek around Savvy Verse & Wit.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  The Time in Between by Maria Duenas for review (my second copy, look for a giveaway with the review)

2.   Twilight The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  The Giver by Lois Lowry from the library sale for my daughter and myself

4.  The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis from the library sale for my daughter

5.  Who Am I? by Sesame Street from the library sale for my daughter

6.  Silly Sally by Audrey Wood for my daughter from the library sale

7. The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis for review for TLC Book Tours in early November.

8. The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White for review in November.

9. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems by Emma Eden Ramos for review.

10. Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram for review.

11. Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison for review.

12. A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead for a TLC Book Tour at the end of November.

What books did you receive this week?  Please leave your link below to your mailbox.

Now, for the giveaway for the week.  I’m holding an international giveaway for Waking by Ron Rash.  Deadline to enter is Oct. 22, 2011.

I reviewed the book earlier in the month and is my first experience with Rash’s work.  Have you read other Ron Rash books, if so which one and should I read it?

I also posted a poem from the collection in the Virtual Poetry Circle.

Please leave a comment if you are interested in this book.