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A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France Hardcover – November 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; (2nd printing) edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061650706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061650703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“By turns heartbreaking and inspiring.” (Caroline Weber, New York Times Book Review)

“[A] moving novelistic portrait. . . . An inspiring and fascinating read.” (Meredith Maran, People (3½ stars))

“An extremely moving and intensely personal history of the Auschwitz universe as experienced by these women. . . . A powerful and moving book.” (Natasha Lehrer, Times Literary Supplement (UK))

“[Moorehead] traces the lives and deaths of all her subjects with unswerving candor and compassion. . . . In Moorehead’s telling, neither evil nor good is banal; and if the latter doesn’t always triumph, it certainly inspires.” (Elysa Gardner, USA Today)

“As chronicled by Moorehead with unblinking accuracy, their agonies are appalling to contemplate, their stories of survival and friendship under duress enthralling to hear.” (More magazine)

“Haunting account of bravery, friendship, and endurance.” (Marie Claire)

“Compelling . . . Moorehead weaves into her suspenseful, detailed narrative myriad personal stories of friendship, courage, and heartbreak.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Heightened by electrifying, and staggering, detail, Moorehead’s riveting history stands as a luminous testament to the indomitable will to survive and the unbreakable bonds of friendship.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Even history’s darkest moments can be illuminated by spectacular courage, such as courage that Caroline Moorehead movingly celebrates in A Train in Winter. . . . Moorehead has created a somber account, sensitively rendered, of yet another grim legacy of war.” (Judith Chettle, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“The first complete account of these extraordinary women and, incredibly, over 60 years later we are still learning new and terrible truths about the Holocaust. . . . An important new perspective. . . . Careful research and sensitive retelling.” (Buzzy Jackson, Boston Sunday Globe)

“A necessary book. . . . Compelling and moving. . . . The literature of wartime France and the Holocaust is by now so vast as to confound the imagination, but when a book as good as this comes along, we are reminded that there is always room for something new.” (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post)

“As Moorehead delves deeply into the women’s fight for survival, her narrative seamlessly comes together in order to share a significant part of history whose time has come to be heard.” (Meganne Fabrega, Christian Science Monitor)

“A miraculous story about friendship and the will to overcome extraordinary cruelty, heartache and loss.” (The Jewish Journal, "Best Books of 2011")

From the Back Cover

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.


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Customer Reviews

An amazing story of survival and friendship and courage.
Joe Ferris
I never really connected with this book and I think it was because the author attempted to tell the stories of too many women.
CEG
It is the most harrowing book I've ever read, but also one of the most well written.
heather rogers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

186 of 204 people found the following review helpful By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the story of the "31,000 Convoi," a reference to the numerical series tattooed on the arms of 230 French women who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau in January, 1942. These women were of all ages from 17 to 67 and from all walks of life and villages and cities all over France. All had been arrested for actions detrimental to the Nazi occupiers or the Vichy government. Many were members of organized resistance groups, but some made spontaneous gestures as minor as writing a pro-British slogan on a wall, and some never knew why they'd been arrested.

The women were held for months in a French prison, where they formed a tight bond, before they were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and put on a detail that promised extermination by work. After just two and a half months, 150 of their number were dead from cold, exhaustion, beatings, selection to the gas chambers and, most often, from dysentery and typhus. But then a form of luck kicked in. Spring arrived, some of the 80 surviving women were sent on an easier work detail and the rest were moved to Ravensbruck which, while brutal, was not designed to be an extermination camp. These breaks meant that the appalling death rate slackened, and 49 of the women survived until liberation two years later.

Author Moorehead spends the first half of the book identifying the women and describing the events that led to their arrests. With so many people and events being described, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by detail and not get a strong sense of them as people. This changes once the story moves onto the women's imprisonment. With the women all together, the focus changes to their personalities and relationships with each other.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By E. Crowley VINE VOICE on October 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The horrors of the Holocaust have been documented with minute details. The Nazi domination of Europe required the killing of all lesser peoples, those who would pollute the Master Race. The Jews and the Roma of Europe were two of the first groups to be hounded and rounded up by the Gestapo and the SS. The Jews were to be destroyed because they were Jewish, the Roma and the people of the countries of eastern Europe were to be killed or were to become slaves in order to provide Lebensraum for the spread of the Master Race. With both groups, the Nazi machine was successful.

Far less has been written about the people of western Europe, the people of the occupied countries who also had much to fear from the various branches of the Nazi propaganda machine. A TRAIN IN WINTER is the extraordinary story of a group of French women who were imprisoned and then transferred to Auschwitz because they published leaflets encouraging Parisians not to cooperate with the occupiers.

Europe was not a peaceful place from 1918 until the invasion of Poland in 1939, the event that began World War II. A brutal civil war was fought in Spain from July 1936 and April, 1939. The Nationalists were led by General Francisco Franco and its adherents were referred to as Francoists or Fascists. They were vehemently anti-communist. Franco's Fascists won the support of the Italians and the Germans who adopted the term "fascism" to denote a form of government in which country was more important than any individual, group, or guaranteed liberty. Millions of Spaniards were killed on each side and as Franco and the Fascists emerged as the victors, Spanish communists went to France to get support for their group.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I know that Caroline Moorehead can write an incredibly compelling book -- I've read her bio of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Dancing to the Precipice: Lucy de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution, one of those rare 5-star-plus books. But in that book, Moorehead's challenge was to tell the story of an era through the life of a single woman; in this book, she's tackling something altogether trickier, the saga of 230 women of very diverse background and experiences, brought together by their work for (different branches of) the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation, their subsequent deportation to Auschwitz and beyond. Her decision to try to do justice to each of those women may be laudable, but it makes the book a choppy and unfocused narrative.

Don't misunderstand me. Moorehead does a superlative job of capturing the details of each woman's resistance activities, the prison environment in which they meet and their traumatic experiences in the death camps of Nazi Germany. It's a heartbreaking reminder of what happen when human beings lose their humanity and treat other humans as they might some kind of insect life. The book packs an emotional wallop.

But it was too often a frustrating book to read. Packing the basic details of the lives of even several dozen of the 230 deportees (only 49 of whom would survive) is still a challenge to a writer trying to craft a compelling narrative. As Moorehead points out, some were workers, some ran bars, some were typographers, others were intellectuals. Some had been very active in the resistance; one woman had simply written a letter to her brother hoping for an end to Nazi rule.
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