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A moving and extraordinary book about courage and survival, friendship and endurance - a portrait of ordinary women who faced the horror of war together

On an icy morning in Paris in January 1943, 230 French women resisters were rounded up from the Gestapo detention camps and sent on a train to Auschwitz – the only train, in the four years of German occupation, to take women of the resistance to a death camp.The youngest was a schoolgirl of 15, the eldest a farmer’s wife of 68; there were among them teachers, biochemists, sales girls, secretaries, housewives and university lecturers. Caroline Moorehead’s remarkable new book is the story of these women.It is about who they were, how and why they joined the resistance, how they were captured and treated by the French police and the Gestapo, their journey to Auschwitz and their daily life in the death camps – and about what it was like for the 49 survivors when they returned home. Six of the women were still alive in 2010 and able to tell their stories. They explained that great affection and camaraderie grew up among the group. They became friends, and it was precisely this friendship that kept so many of them alive.They supported and cared for one another, worked together, shared everything, watched out for each other and faced the horror together.Friendship, almost as much as luck, dictated survival. Drawing on interviews with survivors and their families, on German, French and Polish archives, and on documents held by WW2 resistance organisations, A Train in Winter covers a harrowing part of our history but is, ultimately, a portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and endurance.

Reviews

This serious and heartfelt book does deliver on its promise of a tale of how female friendship "can make the difference between living and dying"... Profound

Brian Schofield, Sunday Times

A harrowing but also uplifting shared story of friendship, courage and endurance

Independent

A story of stunning courage, generosity and hope. They risked their lives to defeat Fascism, by printing subversive literature, hiding Jewish friends or, in the case of one girl, simply insulting a French youth because he had decided to co-operate with the Nazis. The price they paid for their bravery was terrible. A Train in Winter could have been a sad, almost morbid book. In Moorehead's expert hands it is a triumphant one

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

Compassionate, meticulous and compulsively enthralling... This book is essential reading. The litany of names at the end, with their brief biographies (Yolande, Cecile, Poupette, Mitzy, Lucie...) reminds us weeping is not enough. It bears witness - and warns

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

Moorehead tells her appalling story in measured prose that sets off perfectly the reader's growing sense of wonder that such heroism is possible

Guardian

A remarkable and deeply affecting book

Oxford Times

A boom which contains a wealth of historical information as well as some brilliant if horrific storytelling

John Laughland, Spectator

A pitch-perfect study of human depravity, and of the heroism it can inspire

Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life

With A Train in Winter [Caroline Moorehead] has managed to pay tribute and tell the women's compelling story'

Scotsman

A multiple biography and a detailed anatomy of the nature of friendship... A Train in Winter is a powerful and moving book; its significance is in bringing to a wider, non-French readership the particular and terrible fate of a group of women whose only crime was to love their country and to wish to do something to defend it, at a time when its government chose craven obedience to the occupier, with terrible consequences for so many of its people

Natasha Lehrer, Times Literary Supplement

This is a clear-sighted, distressing and unforgettable book

Stephanie Cross, The Lady

A harrowing but also uplifting story of shared story of friendship, courage and endurance

Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Books of the Year

It is an exceptional achievement on the author's part to have reconstructed these obscure lives that so often ended in sordid misery and to have restored their dignity and honour

Patrick Marnham, Literary Review

An outstanding and important book, compelling and deeply troubling

Peter Eade, Country Life

A hybrid of history and multiple biography, movingly chronicles the women's ordeal... [it] bears eloquent witness to the moral and material ruin of collaborationist in France

Ian Thomson, Seven

A remarkable achievement of biographical and oral research and with a brilliant narrative and description

History Today

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099523895

    September 18, 2012

    Vintage

    384 pages

    RRP $22.99

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781448156788

    September 6, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    384 pages

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