cover image Shadows of a Childhood: A Novel of War and Friendship

Shadows of a Childhood: A Novel of War and Friendship

Elisabeth Gille, Elizabeth Gille. New Press, $23 (138pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-388-2

With the trial of 87-year-old Maurice Papon, an alleged Vichy collaborator, in the news, the posthumous publication of this novel about a Jewish girl hidden in a Bordeaux convent during WWII comes at a particularly resonant time. Gille was a French editor who died in 1996; this is her third novel (translated rather literally by Coverdale) and the first to be published in English. It concerns the fate of Lea Levy, who is five years old in 1942 when she is snatched from the reach of the Vichy police just before her parents are sent to a concentration camp. Stubborn and precocious, Lea attaches herself ""like a shadow"" to Benedicte Gaillac, two years older and the vivacious daughter of Communist Resistance fighters who, by adopting Lea into their family, try to keep her from knowing the horrible details surrounding her parents' disappearance. Yet digging for the truth becomes Lea's obsession, and, in the process, Gille, whose own personal story mirrors that of her young heroine, skillfully lays open the festering wound of French wartime complicity. Like a testimonial that derives its riveting power from the intimate delineation of time and place, Gille's work makes history personal. (Mar.)