In the midst of war, one teenager is determined to make a difference
If no one will do anything, she’ll have to do it herself.
In 1941 France is still “free.” But fifteen-year-old Magali is frustrated by the cruel irony of pretending life is normal when food is rationed, new clothes are a rarity, and most of her friends are refugees. And now the government is actually helping the Nazis. Someone has got to do something, but it seems like no one has the guts—until Paquerette arrives.
Smuggling refugee children is Paquerette’s job. And she asks Magali to help.
Working with Paquerette is scary and exhausting, but Magali never doubts that it is the right thing to do. Until her brash actions put those she loves in danger.
The authors share the history behind the book, I thought you might find ithis nteresting:
There are two parts to the historical story behind this book: the story of the town, and the story of the internment camps and the aid workers.
In the novel Magali lives in a town called Tanieux, which is based on a real town in France called La Chambon-sur-Lignon, which–along with the plateau region around it–sheltered and saved many Jewish people during World War II. This was a region of France that was traditionally Protestant; because of their faith but also because Protestants have a history of persecution in France (it happened during the Middle Ages, but memories are long there), the people of this place saw the growing persecution of the Jews for what it was, and were ready to help. A network of pastors and other willing people throughout the area found safe homes for Jewish refugees; the town of Le Chambon, under the leadership of pastor Andre Trocme, was a particularly safe place. Aid agencies started children’s homes there, where Jewish children were sent, given new, false identities, and mixed in with non-Jewish children to hide them. Les Chenes, the children’s home in the novel, was based on these. And that’s why when aid workers like Paquerette start bringing children out of internment camps, Magali finds them bringing them to her town.
France had been conquered by Germany, and the north was occupied by German troops, but the south where Magali lives was known as the “free” zone or Vichy France, where the French were still allowed to govern themselves. However, the French Vichy government, as it was called, had taken a page out of the Nazis’ book; they were racist and believed that foreign Jews, Gypsies, and other foreigners were bad for France. They arrested many of these people and shut them up in internment camps. These weren’t death camps or work camps but they were very bad, with inhuman conditions, because Vichy just didn’t care about these people. They did, however, allow aid agencies who were becoming concerned about the internees to send workers into the camps, and they sometimes released people into their care–especially children, who were very much at risk due to malnutrition and disease. Defy the Night tells the story of the young women who worked for these aid groups, taking children to their new homes. This work was legal but it was risky; they were seen as subversive and what with giving children false identities, etc, they had secrets it wasn’t safe to have. Later in the war, when the Nazis encroached more and it became downright illegal to hide Jews, these young women went underground to continue to save children, risking their freedom and even their lives. They were true heroes. It was their story that inspired Mom and me to write this book.
What a heart-wrenching story. When I have thought of the camps in WWII I always thought of Jewish people and some children but I never gave much thought to the babies.
Until I read this book.
As Magali goes and rescues her first baby my heart twisted in pain. What would it be like to hold your baby and know that if you don’t let it go it will die? That if you do let it go you may never see it again? I just can’t imagine making that choice. But I am sure there were women who had to do that. And I wonder, did they ever see their children again?
This book explores issues that maybe you have never considered much and make for a great story but a terrifying life.
Magali is a strong young woman and she just wants to help. She is a bit rough around the edges at first but how can not like a character that gives all she has to help rescue children?
This is not a light read at all but definitely thought-provoking. If you enjoy a good WWII story that explores tough issues I think you will enjoy this book.
Learn more about the authors:
Growing up in the savannahs of northern Brazil as a missionary kid, Lydia Munn did five years of homeschooling because there was no school where her family lived. There were no public libraries either, but she read every book she could get her hands on. As she grew up this led naturally to her choice of an English major at Wheaton College. Her original plan to teach English to high school students went through some changes along the way, becoming in the end a lifelong love of teaching the Bible to both adults and young people as a missionary in France. She and her husband Jim have two children, their son Robin and their daughter Heather.
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland of American parents and grew up in the south of France. She decided to be a writer at the age of five when her mother read her Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, but worried that she couldn’t write about her childhood since she didn’t remember it. She went to French school until her teens, and grew up hearing the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, only an hour’s drive away. She now lives in rural Illinois with her husband Paul, where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction. She enjoys splitting wood.
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A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.