Caroline Moorehead’s previous book, A Train in Winter, tracks the destinies of women who suffered in France under the Nazis because they were resisters and ‘subversives’, or because they had helped others of their kind, and also Jews, to escape the Vichy machine of destruction. Although rightly admired for the scope and detail of its research, the book was a little diffuse and sometimes confusing, if only because the personal journeys that ultimately led to Drancy and the fatal train ride eastwards were themselves complex. Now, in Village of Secrets, Moorehead has, if anything, an even larger cast of characters and certainly a more conflicting set of accounts of the same events. Yet this new exploration of suffering and survival has a wonderfully cohesive quality because it essentially concerns one defined area, high in the mountains of the Cévennes in the eastern Massif Central.
It is about the horrors of the German obsession with making France ‘Jew-free’, and the all too familiar saga of their French collaborators; about the ‘French values’ of Pétainism on the one