Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Resistance by Agnes Humbert

Agnes Humbert was an art historian in Paris during the German occupation in 1940. Though she might well have weathered the oppressive regime, Humbert was stirred to action by the atrocities she witnessed. In an act of astonishing bravery, she joined forces with several colleagues to form an organized resistance, very likely the first such group to fight back against the occupation. (In fact, their newsletter, Resistance, gave the French Resistance its name.)

In the throes of their struggle for freedom, the members of Humbert's group were betrayed to the Gestapo; Humbert herself was imprisoned. In immediate, electrifying detail, Humbert describes her time in prison, her deportation to Germany, where for more than two years she endured a string of brutal labor camps, and the horror of discovering that seven of her friends were executed by a firing squad. But through the direst of conditions, and ill health in the labor camps, Humbert retains hope for herself, for her friends, and for humanity.

Most of my WWII reading has been set in Russia, so this was a nice change of pace. I really enjoyed the format of the book. The entries ranges in length from a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages. The diary layout made it easy to place the events Humbert wrote about within the timeline of the war.

Obviously, Humbert wasn't allowed to write while she was imprisoned, but the detail in her recollections make you feel as if you are right in the middle of the action. I especially enjoyed the brief glimpses of the other prisoners. She was able to illustrate the unpredictability of prison life by the stories of her friends coming and going.

The language in this book was very beautiful and descriptive without being over powering. As credit to the translator, the wording didn't feel clumsy or forced. If you have any interest in WWII this is worth reading. 4 stars.

1 comment:

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

This is in my TBR stack. Good to know that the translation is smooth.