Reviewed by Colleen Turner

On January 24th, 1943, 230 women boarded a train in France, bound for the unknown. They ranged in age from fifteen to over sixty and encompassed positions in society from school girls to furriers to farmers’ wives to doctors and chemists. Most, on the surface, seemed to have little in common. What united them was much deeper and much more binding.

These women found themselves imprisoned together for their various resistance acts against the German invaders that had taken over France upon their occupation on June 14th, 1940. And all would have to cling together as strongly as possible in order to survive what lay ahead of them at the end of their train ride: the death and work camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau and Ravensbruck. Their united strength, intelligence and determination to live and tell others of the horror they have witnessed, experienced and survived led to forty-nine of these brave 230 coming home to France in the summer of 1945.

A Train in Winter is a remarkable story that not only brings attention to this specific group of women and what they went through under the Nazi regime but the bigger picture of the French Occupation, the French Resistance and the other men and women, many communists but not all, who were determined to fight for what they saw as right and to reclaim the country that was theirs. It also brought into the light, using stark and blunt writing, the true horrors of what the people of Europe, from many countries, religions and political beliefs, experienced in the various Nazi concentration camps.

I was absolutely enamored with these women, their friends and families and with the bravery they all exuded when so many others would have, and some did, give in to the Germans. Faced with such extreme degradations, brutality and hatred inflicted on them they managed to maintain their morality and defiance and banded together to save those they could and never forget those they couldn’t.

In no way can A Train in Winter be looked at as a happy, uplifting read. What this book is is a testament to strength, friendship and the ability to maintain a core set of beliefs even when in hell. It is fully apparent that Caroline Moorehead not only did extensive research but interviewed survivors and their family members and enclosed their lives and words into the story. She makes you feel like you are witness to these atrocities right along with the women, making for a heart-wrenching experience. I don’t believe I will ever forget these women and what they did for what they felt as right.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Watch the story of these amazing women in a video created by the UK publisher

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.