By James R. Vance
Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: RealTime Publishing (February 17, 2014)
About James R. Vance : Originally from England, I now live in rural south west France. My first novels, ‘Animal Instinct’, ‘Killer Butterfly’ and ‘The Courier’ were published between 2008 and 2010. They formed a trilogy depicting the careers of two detectives. My knowledge of Cheshire and Greater Manchester is apparent in both ‘Animal Instinct’ and ‘Killer Butterfly’. The final novel of the trilogy, ‘The Courier’, uses my experience of working in France and London as an inspiration for the storyline. My fourth novel ‘Eight’, published in 2011,is a crime fiction novel set mostly in France, a sequel to the trilogy featuring one of the detectives and a former suspect. My knowledge of both countries enabled me to provide a backdrop for the plot. During this same period, I also wrote and published a children’s short story, ‘Goose’.
Having discovered that I live in an area swamped by a rich tapestry of war-time memories, I have since dedicated my time to unearthing stories of resistance activities in this region before the extraordinary tales disappear along with the ageing survivors of that period. My novel, ‘Les Ruines’, was my first foray into the genre of historical fiction. After researching local sites and listening to personal recollections of French Resistance exploits during WWII, I produced a mysterious tale of tragic events involving betrayal, retribution and chaos during the fragmented liberation of France. The novel was exhibited at the London Book Fair 2012 and a version of the novel in French will be available towards the end of 2013.
In April 2013, I published my next historical fiction project, ‘Risk’, about agents of the Special Operations Executive who organised evaders’ escape lines from occupied France during the Second World War. Combining romance and tragedy, the novel will have subtle links to ‘Les Ruines’. To learn more about these wartime exploits, I became a member of E.L.M.S. the Escape Lines Memorial Society, based in the U.K.
About the book:Historical fiction novel, set in France depicting the conflict that still exists amongst families since the Nazi occupation of WWII. Two young sisters discover war memorabilia hidden in their grandmother’s trunk in an attic. They set out to trace their family history, an exploit that triggers devastating consequences.
Our path through life, right from the beginning is composed of a series of small events. These, sometimes imperceptibly, cause change and each of these seemingly insignificant junctions cause a ripple effect, the results of which shape our lives. Sometimes, these junctions are hidden innocently, impossible for foresee and with no apparent ability to affect our future.
The story, which Elodie Arnaud recounts, starts innocently enough with her sister Monique’s fascination with the quaint English bridal tradition of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Soon to be married to Gerard Thiebaud, the determined Monique convinces her sister Elodie to go with her into the attic and find their grandmother’s trunk. Monique reasoned that surely, there must be something, which she could use; however, nothing could have prepared them for the repercussions that simple action caused.
Their grandmother, Marie Lafond had lived in Montauban, a large town in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of France during WW2, and during the war, she had been only a teenager, with a teenager’s perspective on life. The decisions she made and events in Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in the department of Haute-Vienne, are the substance of this book.
The Oradour-sur-Glane lived in today, is new, and built on the orders of Charles de Gaulle after WW2. The original village, which Marie would have known, stands as a permanent memorial and museum to the 642 men, women and children, slaughtered by the 2nd Panzer Division of the German SS on the 10th June 1944.
If you live in a rural community anywhere in the world, you accept that they are very close knit, with memories which are carried down through the generations. I live in rural France where the war is still so apparent both in monuments and remembrance days in every village; the horror of their lives through occupation and the work of the resistance, are very plain to see, even now.
This book is a beautifully written chronicle of the life of one family through three generations. The author, through meticulous research has given the reader a wonderful insight into what it would have been like to grow up and live in France under occupation.
Through Elodie and Monique’s discoveries and reflections, we learn how the outlook of modern generations has changed, on the surface, but then memories for some people, run deep.
Lest We Forget…
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
(17 March 2014)