CAMPBELL, Lorraine Resisting the Enemy Palmer Higgs, 2014 364pp $24.95 pbk ISBN 9780992549329 SCIS 1692103
In the dark days in early 1941 in German-occupied France, a young Frenchwoman, Valentine (Valli) de Vaillant, 22, is involved in the dangerous mission of rescuing downed British airmen and she helps one of them make it by train from Lyon to Marseilles where he could escape to safety.
This is the opening to a vividly presented biographical account of this brave young woman, daughter of an Australian opera singer and a French architect, who spent her childhood in Malvern in Melbourne and who went on to complete her education in Paris continuing to university in the years before World War II. As war breaks out she is devastated by the death of her beloved brother Florian in a car crash and of her parents in the Blitz in London.
With her friends she witnesses the fall of France and the occupation of Paris and she moves to Lyon. Here she becomes involved in the perilous work of the Resistance movement which is complicated when a German colonel is billeted at her grandmother’s house and who becomes involved in saving Lavinia’s life. She comes close to exposure when she returns to Paris to try to convince her friend, Marguerite, and her brother Alexandre, who are Jewish, to escape to safety.
This is a reissue of a novel first published in 2009 and is now followed by Resisting the Enemy: In Mortal Danger which takes Valli’s adventures into 1943. Though the characters and events are fictional they are based on detailed research of the times and places and bring young readers into a strong understanding of the life of the French people of the time, the threat to French Jewish citizens, and the manner in which the Germans controlled the country. The setting is given a strong authentic ring with the detailed description of the streets, particularly of Paris and how it changed when the Germans took over. There is much to learn in this exciting dramatic story, a rewarding and informative reading for ages 12 and up.
reviewed by John D Adams