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By Kate Mosse
Publisher: HarperCollins/William Morrow
Pub. Date: March 18, 2014
Historical fiction / Thriller
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
I have to confess I had heard a lot about Kate Mosse, even have Labyrinth on my shelf, but never took time to read it. So when I was approached to review Citadel, I knew time had come. This is actually the third volume of the Languedoc Trilogy, but I never had the sense I was missing on something because I had not read the first two volumes -which of course now I want to read!
The German occupation is still very much ingrained in the French national consciousness, and the Resistance is certainly one of the most heroic pages of French history. I have heard many stories about it, from my family and friends, and read many books. This one is unique in the sense that it focuses on an all female Resistance network! As you will read in the interview part of the France Book Tour, when Kate bought a house in Carcassonne, she realized many streets were named after Resistance fighters, and many had died the same day. Also, a memorial mentions two unknown women. She wrote this historical novel trying to imagine what happened in that day and who these women could have been.
All the aspects of the Resistance are present, including all the activities organized by the underground networks, the camps, the informers, betrayals, and yes a few tough pages on torture.
I enjoyed a lot that this historical novel is at the same time a thriller centered on a very old secret Codex, with even some elements of fantasy and romance. There is a strong connection with Arsinius, living in the 4th century, at the key period for Christianity, when some texts were considered heretical. I won’t give away any detail about what the connection is between these two periods, but it certainly enriched considerably the story.
It also highlighted the pseudo-scientific aspect of German’s search of the Aryan race, through its Ahnenerbe, which I really didn’t know anything about.
The characters are so very alive. The character development of Sandrine especially, is really remarkable. From a teen just preoccupied in trying to keep life as bearable as possible during this war time, she discovers the real world is far more complicated. She evolves into a very powerful woman, determined to do all she can and sacrifice everything to allow her country to regain its freedom. Even though the outcome is really tough, I think what Kate did with her characters only makes sense and is very realistic.
Everyone compromises. There’s no black and no white, just shades of gray. Everybody’s trying to get by.
I also liked what the author did with a couple of characters collaborating with the Gestapo, having really in mind only their own interests, sometimes hidden behind some almost decent motives.
Authié realized that in fact the occupation of the North and the collaboration between Vichy and Hitler would suit his purposes.
I also appreciated the wisdom figure of Baillard.
The setting of Carcassonne, with its powerful ramparts still visible today, is very well rendered. The episode of the Resistance is one among the many invasions the region had to face, and this is also very well conveyed. One can see how much the author is knowledgeable about the area. I could smell the wonderful scents of the countryside there, with the thyme and rosemary. I would love now to join her and visit the place and the surrounding mountains and caves with her as guide! Before that, we can do the tour on her website!
VERDICT: Citadel is the unforgettable portrayal of strong young French women during the Resistance, fighting for freedom. It is a must for all lovers of historical fiction, mystery, and WWII novels. Sandrine and her companions will remain with you, and may even inspire you.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
From the internationally bestselling author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre comes a thrilling novel, set in the South of France during World War II, that interweaves history and legend, love and conflict, passion and adventure, bringing to life brave women of the French Resistance and a secret they must protect from the Nazis. In Carcassonne, a colorful historic village nestled deep in the Pyrenees, a group of courageous and determined operatives are engaged in a lethal battle. Like their ancestors who fought to protect their land from Northern invaders seven hundred years before, these women—codenamed Citadel—fight to liberate their home from the Germans. But smuggling refugees over the mountains into neutral territory and sabotaging their Nazi occupiers is only part of their mission. These members of the resistance must also protect an ancient secret that, if discovered by the enemy, could change the course of history.A superb blend of rugged action and haunting mystery based on real-life figures, Citadel is a vivid and richly atmospheric story of a group of heroic women who dared the odds to survive [provided by the publisher]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Mosse is the multimillion selling author of four works of nonfiction, three plays, one volume of short stories and six novels, including the New York Times bestselling Labyrinth and Sepulchre.
A popular presenter for BBC television and radio in the UK, she is also cofounder and chair of the prestigious Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and a member of the board of the National Theatre of Great Britain.
In 2013, she was named as one of the Top 100 most influential people in British publishing and also awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature.
She divides her time between England and Carcassonne, France.
Be sure to visit her amazing website. You can take a complete tour of all the places mentioned in the book, and also watch interesting videos with Kate Mosse.
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