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France

Outwitting the Gestapo

By Lucie Aubrac

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This year witnessed the 70th anniversary of the Fall of France, the event which signalled German invasion and an end to the so-called Phoney War. However, this year also witnessed the same anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's 'Appeal of June 18', where he ignited "La Flamme de la Résistance". Calling for a continuation of the war in France, against the armistice being prepared by the French government, this appeal by de Gaulle signalled a major step in the history of the resistance in France.

First published in 1984, Lucie Aubrac’s memoires Outwitting the Gestapo detail her involvement in the resistance in and around Lyon, from May 1943 to February 1944. The wife of resistance leader Raymond Aubrac, Lucie was heavily involved in the activities of the resistance, including the daring rescue of her own husband from the clutches of the Gestapo. These activities also led to numerous meetings, under false pretences, with the "Butcher of Lyon" himself, Klaus Barbie.

Aside from the humble heroism and determination illustrated by Lucie in these events, what makes this account a particularly engrossing read is the personable and sometimes poetic style in which it is written. Despite all the desperate struggles which the family and their friends find themselves in, there is a deep romanticism from the author, displaying an honest passion towards France, everyday people, and the notions of liberty and free will. The perspective of a woman in the resistance is also rewarding, as Lucie demonstrates both her feminist and maternal aspects, the latter highlighted by the fact that she is pregnant for the nine months that the book covers.

This account, although the view of just one resistor over a set period of time, embodies in it the heart of the resistance. It is a call to remember all those who played their part, whether it is Raymond Aubrac as a leader, a shop owner, or the families that help conceal resistors when they are in hiding. As the memories of the 40s begin to fade, perhaps now it is more important than ever to pick up a book such as this and remind ourselves of why we can travel through Europe in relative peace, and of the contribution to this made by the participants and supporters of the French Resistance.

Find this book on Amazon: Outwitting the Gestapo

Posted by Craggy 14:14 Archived in France Tagged books Comments (0)

Letters From My Windmill

By Alphonse Daudet

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"Letters From My Windmill" is my favourite travel campanion. I have had this book for years, and brought it on countless solitary trips, and could never bear to finish it.

Alphonse Daudet was a well known writer in his time, now over shadowed by time; and retreat into the lesser known French writers category. A native of Nimes in Provence; he had an immense love of the Provence countryside where he spent a happy childhood. This work is almost an auto biography where he described his memories of random people, experiences of the countryside while living in a deserted windmill somewhere in the region of Arles.

Daudet had a strong narrative style in his writing. The first line "It is the rabbits who have been taken aback!" sets the tone for the whole book. Every line speaks of the writer's fondness for the people and the places of Provence. He came alive in these surroundings, and he speaks with distaste of the city, Paris.

I brought this book with me when I travel to Provence last year. At the top of Les-Baux, there was the remain of a windmill, and imagine my delight in coming across it! Granted that it was not "the windmill", but it was still pretty special, especially as there was mention of Daudet in the tourists' introduction in the audio guide.

There was something enchanting in the way a forgotten time came alive in the book. Quirky characters, beautiful landscapes, humor, sadness, and a poignant sense of beauty. Every story is a gem, it was the little things that made a life; the really old couples in "The Old Couple", living on nothing more than a promise of having their beloved son back with them, and Daudet's own experience when he visited them, and was treated like their son, simply because he was a friend of their son. The dignity, longing, and humourous traits of the old couple was so powerful in allowng the characters to make an impressions, and tug at your heart.

To me, the stories in the book also speaks of the strong, resiliant, cheerful spirit of the Provence people. With the mistral ravaging through the countryside, the people of Provence are used to the rough, living their life alongside the wind; and making light of the hardship casted their way by nature. There was a certain stubborness, refusal to bow down to circumstances that characterise the people of Provence, which Daudet fully appreciated, and brought to life in his stories.

Buy Letters From My Windmill now on Amazon.com

Posted by Irise Rain 11:35 Archived in France Tagged books Comments (1)

Down and Out in Paris and London

by George Orwell

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OUTLINE

Based on Orwell's own real life accounting of living in the slums of Paris and later in London. Orwell creates a fictional character that recounts his tales of reaching the lowest level in Paris and trying to survive at a similar level in London. Along the way meeting characters that help, hinder and create further interest.

REVIEW

This is a great book that really sticks with you once you've read it. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) is another Orwell classic, the concept is chilling and frightening real today. Down and out in Paris and London is a very different read. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to throw away all your cash, or what would happen if you lost everything in another country - this is a must read.

Orwell's character is there by choice, which makes it even more gripping. From living on pennies, selling, borrowing and avoiding all in Paris to living a homeless street life in London is visually descriptive and puts you right there with him. A great work of writing that one can relate to on so many levels.

OVERALL

I was not expecting this book to be so good. It's a travel book of a different kind that is often overlooked due to high brow literary write-ups. For the traveler it's well worth picking up this book. For everyone else, it's just as good for the insight alone.

Packing Space Guide: Its a slim 228 pages. It's 0.6 inches thick and weighs under half a pound. Fits nicely into a bag or large pocket.

My Rating: 5/5

Other George Orwell Works Include:
Animal Farm
Homage to Catalonia
Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays (Complete Works of George Orwell)

Buy it: Down and Out in Paris and London is available on Amazon.

About the Author: Dave has been traveling around the world in search of home for 5 years, photographing and writing about his journey on his website: www.thelongestwayhome.com.

Posted by TLWH 04:00 Archived in France Tagged books Comments (2)

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