My latest review for Catholic Fiction.net is for “A High and Hidden Place.” This is the remarkable story of one woman’s quest to uncover her past. The novel begins in 1963 when 25-year-old journalist Christine Lenoir watches in horror as Lee Harvey Oswald is shot live on television. She begins to have flashbacks and vivid dreams about her life as a young child. Raised by religious sisters (Christine calls them “angel mothers”) in a convent in France, Christine is led to believe that her parents died of influenza. In actuality, she discovers that they and most of the residents of her hometown of Oradour were slaughtered by the Nazis one day in June of 1944.
This was not only a compelling read, but the author did an exceptional job with flashbacks and allowing the reader to know what happened long before Christine finds out herself.
The characters are well-developed, the dialogue believable, the setting real. While most of the characters are imperfect Catholics, there are also a few Jewish characters as well. I liked the way the author presents the religious sisters who, without hesitation, took in several of the young survivors of the massacre. In an effort to protect Christine and other girls, the nuns were less than honest in the information they gave the women when they became adults.
The flashbacks of that day are so well-described that I felt the confusion of the men and women as the SS Officers were rounding them up and taking them to the Catholic Church. I felt the dread as the women heard the gun shots of their husbands being brutally murdered. And, sadly, I felt the horror as the women and children tried to escape the fire and gunshots.
While the main characters are fictional, the story of 642 French civilians being massacred in Oradour in June of 1944 is tragically true. There has never been an explanation of why the Nazis murdered the town’s inhabitants of men, women and children.
Because of the subject matter, this is not an easy book to read, but it is a beautifully written novel and an extraordinary book. I highly recommend it.
Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach