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Novel set in a French village (A moving tale of French WWII tragedy)

4th March 2016

The Silent Hours by Cesca Major – novel set in a French village, Oradour-sur-Glane.

This moving book follows 5 main characters living in a small French village that is unoccupied by the Nazis. The story starts when war in France is declared, and takes the reader up to near the end of the war – when a true event takes place.


The story is told in short chapters from each of the main character’s viewpoints. This form of narration works well and does not disrupt the flow of the story at all. The main characters are:

Adeline, who does not speak and is residing in a convent, who talks of the present (1952) and the past.

Isabelle, Adeline’s adored teenage daughter

Paul, Adeline’s son who goes off to fight in the war

Sebastien, the son of a Jewish banker

Tristan, a 9 year old boy whose family moves from Paris to the village to escape the war.

The narrative steadily builds a story of village life, including romance, prejudice, childish innocence, war and different perspectives. The reader is gradually pulled into the characters’ lives – it is like a puzzle being gradually filled in, with the reader becoming mesmerised as the picture become ever more complete.

This story is fiction, but based around a real event that took place on 10 June 1944. The village, Oradour-sur-Glane, where the action takes place, is a real place (now a permanent memorial and museum). I strongly recommend that you do not look up the event until you have finished the book. All the characters are fictional, but I imagine their lives are typical of those that would have been taking place in this village at that time – the author is a historian. Hopes and fears, loves and disappointments are drawn well – as the characters come to life and struggle in these times of hardship and restrictions.

For me the story from Tristan’s 9 year old point of view was particularly strong – having the full facts withheld from him, he imagines scenarios with himself as the hero who brings an end to the war. However his innocent imaginings and actions have far reaching outcomes in the real world.

The book flowed well, and kept me gripped. It gave me a very powerful image of what a village such as this would have been like at that time, with all the serious worries and fears of war, and the petty arguments etc that continue in any small community.   There is a useful “Historical Note” at the end, which clarifies how much of the book is fiction and how much based on real life events.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in French village life during WWII, or just wants a great engaging read.

It is suitable for all the family.

Emma for the TripFiction Team

And over to Cesca who talks about location and how it inspired the book:


The church in Oradour-sur-Glane

I was a History teacher looking for something to teach Year 9 when a colleague told me about an event that occurred in France towards the end of the Second World War in a little village outside Limoges. I did some research and it became obvious that this was a story I wanted to write a novel about. I didn’t know the area and am a hopeless French speaker so I booked my Mum and I onto a flight and we headed to the village to do some research. 

The book is largely set in and around Oradour-sur-Glane. The Glane was the river running through the village where the villagers would fish. It was a calm place in the Unoccupied Zone, largely untouched by the Second World War. In fact this rural idyll seemed a safe place for many refugees escaping more dangerous areas. Farmers lived in hamlets around the town and there was a bustling high street of shops, garages and two schools for the surrounding population. There seemed to be no resistance activity reported and there were claims some Jewish families were hiding in the village knowing they would be largely ignored by the villagers going around their day-to-day life. Children played in the street and down by the river, the tram moved through from Limoges bringing visitors who wanted to shop of fish in the village. It was a peaceful place, a little haven for those that lived there… 


Cesca fishing in the Glane

Thank you to Cesca. You can catch up with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and via her website

And come and say hello on Social Media to the Team at TripFiction: TwitterFacebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over on Instagram too.

For more books set in France, just click here and you can drill down by department, town, genre and period.

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  1. User: Dawn obrien

    Posted on: 09/03/2016 at 2:04 pm

    Ooh, I have this on my kindle, can’t wait to read it now!


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