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Caroline Moorehead on her extraordinary research trips

21 October 2014

When I started writing about the resistance in France during world war 2 with A train in Winter, I had no idea  that it would lead me on extraordinary research trips across Europe, the US and Israel. That first book took me to remote villages all over France to find survivors from a group of 230 women caught by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz. Not many returned and only six were still alive; but I found their children and grandchildren in parts of France I had never been to before.  This new book, Village of Secrets, took me back to France, this time to a remote plateau in the mountains of the northern Cevennes, but it also took me to Paris, Marseilles, Le Puy, Lyon, and along the border with Spain and Switzerland, as well as to several kibbutz on the Israeli-Lebanese border. The third in what has turned into a trilogy on the nature of resistance - what causes absolutely ordinary people to stand up to tyranny and oppression - is set in Italy. Here too, I have found remote places I had never heard of and particularly the Aeolian Islands off Sicily, which Mussolini turned into his penal colony. All research is wonderful, especially archives.  But the fun of discovering unknown corners, finding whole new worlds, is unbeatable.

Caroline Moorehead is the author of  Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Chatto & Windus)