Tuesday, 22 November 2016

An interesting read...

 ... is Caroline Moorehead's book, 'Village of Secrets'.  I read it a short while ago whilst I was travelling in France.  Read on to find out more... 

I found this book fascinating, and although it is factual, it is written in an easy narrative style.  Being about France during the war, I had to have my map open as I was reading and I now have a new area of the country to visit - and I will do so at some future date.

The area in question is on the eastern side of Le Puy-en-Velay.  This is the Ardèche and the principle village in this true story is that of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.  It's a vary scenic area with the village surrounded by thick forest of oak and pine on the Vivarais plateau - a remote place.  Looking at the map it reminded me of the Vercors, another area of France with a very different story to tell and I'm planning on spending some more time there soon.

Just why and how the inhabitants of Le Chambon and the outlying villages came to save thousands wanted by the Gestapo is difficult to put into a nutshell.  But save people - many of them children and babies whose parents had been deported to the camps in Poland and Germany - is exactly what they did.  And you have to keep in mind that a lot of these villagers were just ordinary French people, farmers, drovers, the local bar owner or teacher. In addition the villagers surrounded themselves with a wall of silence, which proved very difficult for the opposing forces to break.  And after the war, Le Chambon became the only village to be listed in its entirety in Yad Vashem's Dictionary of the Just.

This is very much a factual book, but Caroline Moorehead brings the story to life with her easy flowing narrative.  She demonstrates the outstanding courage and determination of this small group of people who came together to oppose the rule of the occupying forces.

The book covers the whole period of the 1939-45 war, prior to the occupation in the north and western seaboard and the creation of the unoccupied Vichy France in the south.  I've visited the town of, and the area that once was, Vichy and have often wondered about the history behind this most difficult time in French history.  This book provides many detailed insights in a non-judgemental way.  

An amazing read, carefully researched with an extensive bibliography at the back so I have earmarked other items to read.  However, because of the subject matter, I found that I was sometimes moved to tears.  You may need a hanky or two to get through to the last page.


  1. I haven't read Caroline Moorehead's book but the story of that area is fascinating. I saw a dramatisation on French TV a few years ago. The inhabitants of that area were Protestants and were persecuted during the Wars of Religion - which probably partly explains why they kept to themselves and were able to erect a wall of silence. Moissac, a town in our area, also managed to hide and save many Jewish children during WWII, a story I am planning to find out more about.

    1. It's a fascinating read, Vanessa. I'm already planning some articles for the blog in the New year where I use the book as my guide through the area as I did with my Stevenson in May to August this year. Moissac is a place I've not yet visited so if you come across any good books to read, please share.