As readers, we are inundated with books on WWII. I, for one, am pretty burnt out. It’s gotten to the point that I rarely choose to pick up books on this particular subject matter, so it is surprising that I chose to read this one! It just felt like it was a different aspect of the war that I maybe wasn’t familiar with.
230 women were transported to Auschwitz during the war, the majority of them being part of the French resistance. They had no idea that they were being sent to an extermination camp, but they learned fairly quickly that they would have to work extremely hard to survive.
I suppose I should back up a bit, because I am getting ahead of myself. A Train in Winter is broken up into two parts, part I consisting of an overview of the women and their upbringing as well as their activities during the war. Given that there were so many women, Moorehead obviously had to pick and choose which women she would discuss, however she cast her net pretty wide, so there was quite a bit for her to cover.
Part II was more focused on the time these women spent in Auschwitz and various other concentration camps. This portion of the book had me a lot more interested and I was fascinated and appalled by the descriptions of daily living; I never imagined that it would be pleasant to live in a concentration camp but I could not even speculate that there would be so many atrocities. The women were forced to stand at roll call for hours each morning and evening, standing in the snow and freezing mud with barely any clothes on. They lived among fleas and lice, in the most unsanitary conditions imaginable. Women died daily, whether by being gassed or finally succumbing to the harsh conditions or various diseases going around. The French women, however, seemed to be a little more resilient than the women of other nationalities imprisoned with them. They were determined to stick up for one another and protect one another despite all the adversity they faced, and miraculously, quite a few of them survived.
I had one problem with this book, and it was a big one. The way Moorhead chose to write A Train in Winter was a bit problematic for me. The story and the circumstances of the women was so compelling, but I could not follow the threads of so many women. Dozens and dozens of women were mentioned in the text to the point where I could not make heads or tails of which was which. Add to this the fact that many of the women had the same first name and I was a goner. Unfortunately, this was a big deal breaker for me, and although I finished the book, it was really hard for me to get through, at least the first part.
I was disappointed with the execution of A Train in Winter. I feel that it is a very powerful book that could have made much more of an impact.
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.
Caroline’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, November 8th: Unabridged Chick
Friday, November 11th: Elle Lit.
Monday, November 14th: Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, November 16th: Among Stories
Wednesday, November 16th: Unabridged Chick – author interview
Thursday, November 17th: Broken Teepee
Friday, November 18th: Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms
Monday, November 21st: Jenny Loves to read
Tuesday, November 22nd: Picky Girl
Wednesday, November 23rd: Books Like Breathing
Monday, November 28th: Reviews by Lola
Tuesday, November 29th: Buried in Print
Wednesday, November 30th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, December 1st: In the Next Room
Friday, December 2nd: Wordsmithonia
Friday, December 2nd: Books and Movies
Monday, December 5th: Take Me Away