Growing up as a youth in war-torn, Nazi-occupied France, Julien Losier finds his very identity threatened by the horrifying and devastating effects of war. At the young age of fifteen, this can be extremely daunting for a teenager and can inflict huge psychological damage.
In "How Huge the Night," Heather and Lydia Munn portray the unseen and unsung heroes of World War 2, as they grapple with hunger, racism and war, in a world not of their own making, struggling to come to terms with heart-searching questions about the goodness of God in the midst of conflicting ethnic tensions in communities torn apart by war.
The devastating horrors of war, the selfless heroism of adolescents triumphing in the face of overwhelming adversity and the significant choices they made are vividly portrayed as the authors deftly weave together the lives of ordinary people who promptly chose to focus their immediate attention on those in dire danger and protect them safely from harm. This historical novel, a most inspiring and compelling coming-of-age drama, will inspire people to reflect thoughtfully on the choices they make each day and the cost they have to pay to make those choices.
Whenever I read a historical fiction story that is based on true events I always love the fact that I am learning a bit about history that perhaps I might never really know alot about otherwise. With How Huge The Night the authors do an amazing job of weaving together fact and fiction, to transport us back to the days of WWII, seeing the events of the time thru the eyes of two teenagers Nina and Julian, while I knew at some point their stories would meld I wasn't sure how they would connect.
The characters in this story are completely believable and it is very easy to imagine the things that they are going thru. Julian is your typical teenager, he isn't a man but neither is he really a boy. He isn't really happy that his family left their home in Paris to move to the farm in southern France with his grandfather, he is dealing with issues such as trying to fit in at school, not to mention trying to get along with Benjamin the Jewish boy who has also moved in with his grandfather.
As Nina's father is lying on his deathbed he makes Nina promise that she will take her brother and leave Austria.For me their parts of their story was heart wrenching, and I found myself praying that they would be all right.
I found this to be a compelling story that has many lessons woven in. A coming of age story during a difficult time period where the characters display great courage faith and hope. While this book is geared toward young adults I would easily recommend it to older adults as well.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
An Exceptional Debut Novel with a Compelling Story
June 24, 2011
One of my topics of great interest is the treatment of the Jewish people during World War II. My interest was spurred by the assigned reading of Ã¢â¬ËThe Diary of Anne Frank' in sixth grade. So when I read the synopsis of Ã¢â¬ËHow Huge the Night' by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn, my curiosity was piqued.
Here is the synopsis of this novel:
Based on Actual Events.
When Had God Ever Stopped A War Because A Teenager Asked Him To?
For fifteen-year-old Julien Losier, life will never be the same. His family has relocated to southern France to outrun Hitler's menace. But Julien doesn't want to run. He doesn't want to huddle around the radio at night, waiting to hear news through buzzing static. Julien doesn't want to wait.
Angry, frustrated, and itching to do something, Julien finds a battle everywhere he turns.
Soon after his family opens their home to a Jewish boy needing refuge, Julien meets Nina, a young Austrian who has fled her home by her father's dying command. Nina's situation is grave and Julien suddenly realizes the enormity of having someone's life or death depend on_him.
Thrown together by a conflict that's too big for them to understand, each one struggles to know what to do, even if it is not enough. Is there a greater purpose in the shadows of this terrible war? Or will their choices put them in greater danger?
Here are the biographies of this daughter/mother author duo:
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland of American parents and grew up in the south of France where her parents and grandparents worked as missionaries. She decided to be a writer at the age of five when her mother read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books aloud, but worried that she couldn't write about her childhood because she couldn't remember it. When she was young, her favorite time of day was after supper when the family would gather and her father would read a chapter from a novel. Heather went to French school until her teens, and grew up hearing the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, only an hour's drive away. She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and lives in a Christian international community in rural Illinois with her husband, Paul, where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction. She enjoys wandering in the woods, gardening, writing, and splitting wood.
Lydia Munn was homeschooled for five years because there was no school where her parents served as missionaries in the savannahs of northern Brazil. There was no public library either, but Lydia read every book she could get her hands on. This led naturally to her choice of an English major at Wheaton College, where she earned a BA in literature. Her original plan to teach high school in English gradually transitioned into a lifelong love of teaching the Bible to both adults and young people in southern France, where she has also been church planting, since 1983. Ten of those years were spent in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France that provides the settings of How Huge the Night. She and her husband, Jim, have two children: their son, Robin, and their daughter, Heather.
Several characters have a strong faith in God. Here is Julien, one of the main characters, early on in the story:
Julien looked up. The moon was gone, and so were the stars, and he was on his knees. "God," he whispered. His voice was dry. "God. Please don't let them get to Paris. Please keep_everybody_safe." He sounded like a child - and God bless Mommy. When had God ever stopped a war because a teenager asked him to? The image came back, the tanks firing, the recoil, Vincent's face grinning. He could never be a soldier. Never drive a tank.
It was unbearable.
I want to do something, God. Let me do something. Please. The word serve rose in his mind, the word protect, but he couldn't even think them; it sounded stupid. What did he know how to do? Do the dishes, play soccer. Split wood. (pp. 16-17)
Another strong man of faith was Pastor Alex. He advocated action against evil:
Then Pastor Alex spoke of evil.
He spoke of the Nazis and the things they did. He spoke of Kristallnacht, and Julien clenched his teeth. He asked if we must sit passively by while evil overcomes good. Julien lifted his head.
Pastor Alex leaned forward. Jesus didn't say, "Don't kill your enemies." Would Jesus simply command us not to act in the face of evil, he who won the greatest victory, who conquered sin and death? No, friends, no. What did Jesus tell us to do to our enemies?
"Jesus," said Pastor Alex, and his voice almost shook. "Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father, offers us this chance to be his brothers and his sisters and to fight as he fought; he gives us his weapons, the Father's weapons, the weapons of the Spirit." He sounded reverent, almost in awe. "The weapons of love," he said. "Fearless love."
Julien sat straighter. Fearless love. Even if he was never a soldier. Was that what Pastor Alex was saying? He could still fight. (p. 101)
There were two different storylines alternating through the book - that of Julien and his family, and that of the brother and sister, Gustav and Nina. It was interesting how the two stories converged toward the end of the book.
In the Historical Note (by Heather) at the end of the book, she explains how much of the history is based on fact. She also explained why she (along with her mother) wrote a book set in this time period:
One of the reasons this period of history fascinates me is choices. In France under the Nazis, people made all kinds of choices. Some got rich off the black market; some through collaboration. Some used the Nazis for revenge, feeding them true or false information against their enemies. Some followed Petain unquestioningly; some just survived, as attentistes, "wait-ists," who chose not to get involved. Some vowed to fight the Germans to the bitter end and started the Resistance, which in those early days seemed completely doomed. And a few, like the people of a village in central France called Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, chose to focus on those in the deepest need and danger, and protect them from harm. (p. 302)
Heather closes out her Historical Note this way:
At the end of the book, Julien expects his country to be under Nazi domination for the rest of his life. This also is accurate. There was no good reason, then, to think otherwise. It is with no hope in sight that the people of Le Chambon trusted God and did what they could for the people they saw being persecuted. Sixty-five years later what they did is still remembered. I hope it always will be. (p. 304)
I really liked this book. It was interesting to get inside the mind of young people who lived in France in 1940. It must have been a scary time, both in terms of what was happening with Hitler and Germany, as well as the normal hormonal trials of teenagers.
Although this book is categorized as Teen Fiction, I think it appeals to all age groups. It is a terrific book to encourage a young person to read; they may not have previously been aware of the events of World War II and Hitler's persecution of God's Chosen People. This book would be a great introduction. And it is written in an interesting and engaging style, which would appeal to all ages.
This book was published by Kregel Publications and provided by them for review purposes.
Reviewed by Andrea Schultz - Ponderings by Andrea blog - http://andrealschultz.blogspot.com
A teenager's choices during the darkness of World War II will change him forever.
Julien is a fifteen year old, dismayed at having to relocate from Paris to Tanieux, his father's hometown in southern France. His father will teach in a new school in this village. In the early stages of World War II, Julien's father is hoping that the Germans will not invade that far into southern France.
Julien is treated like an outsider, a condition that worsens as his parents take in a Jewish boy, Benjamin. Julien sits in church on Sunday but has trouble refraining from fighting his antagonistic schoolmates during the week.
Julien's family listen to the news of the Germans invading Holland and Belgium. Despite the heroic actions of the Dutch, the Germans are on their way to France.
Julien faces a serious decision. Is he willing to have Benjamin stay, even if it puts his own family in danger? The situation becomes all the more serious as Paris falls to the Nazis and the French government surrenders.
Unknown to the people in Tanieux, their lives are about to become more complicated. Julien sees two ragged teenagers get off the Tanieux train. The stationmaster is determined to send them back to where they came from. Food in Tanieux was rationed and there was no extra for refugees.
But Julien helps to see that they are able to stay in the village, hidden from the antagonistic mayor, stationmaster and his son, Henri.
When the Henri finds out the refugees are still in the village, he confronts Julien, whom he despises. Julien must face his own hatred of Henri. Can he love his enemies, as his faith in Jesus requires?
What will happen to the refugees? Will Henri tell his dad who will see them sent to the Jewish camp?
In the Munns' novel, the village of Tanieux represents Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a village of 3,000 people in southern France. Far from the occupied section of France, this village saved, over the course of the war, the lives of more than 3,000 Jews. They took people into their own homes and fed them, even as the French government was collaborating with the Nazis. Every home hid Jews, sometimes for years. No refugee was ever turned away or denounced.
This is a great novel for teen readers. Issues of loyalty, prejudice, and forgiveness are dealt with in the story. A great discussion guide at book's website makes this novel a fine choice for teen reading groups. You'll also find a glossary for the foreign words at that site.
I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.
This book really caught my attention. It is the story of war, and how it affects many different young people, who aren't quite adult enough to fight, but are old enough to know what war is about.
Julien is unhappy, he didn't want to move from Paris France, where his friends were, to the little town in Southern France where his father was born. He knows no one there, and can't understand why his father insisted they move.
Benjamin, a young Jewish boy, doesn't want to be there, he wants to stay with his parents in Paris, and go to school, but his parents insist he live with the Losier family to be safe from the Nazis..
Nina and Gustov, who left home when their father passed away, according to his instuctions, and suffered hunger formany weeks, before finally arriving in Tanieux.
It isn't a light read, it is very realistic, and very well written. I really feel that the authors knew of what they were telling, and I give them high marks for making the book something that they can be very proud to have their name on the cover.
I recieved this book from Kregel Publications to read and review. No other compensation was given. All opinions expressed here are my own, and I am not required to give a favorable review.