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The Englishman's Daughter: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War One Kindle Edition
Never before told, Ben Macintyre's The Englishman's Daughter is a harrowing tale of love, duplicity and their tragic consequences, which haunt the people of Villeret eight decades after the Great War.
"I have a rendezvous with death, at some disputed barricade." Alan Seeger, 1916
In the first days of World War I four soldiers, left behind as the British army retreated through northern France under the first German onslaught, found themselves trapped on the wrong side of the Western Front, in a tiny village called Villeret. Just a few miles from the Somme, the village would be permanently inundated with German troops for the next four years, yet the villagers conspired to feed, clothe and protect the fugitives under the very noses of the invaders, absorbing the Englishmen into their homes and lives until they could pass for Picardy peasants.
The leader of the band, Robert Digby, was a striking young man who fell in love with Claire Dessenne, the prettiest maid in the village. In November 1915, with the guns clearly audible from the battlefront, Claire gave birth to Digby's child, the jealous whispering began, and the conspiracy that had protected the soldiers for half the war started to unravel.
--The New York Times Book Review
“This poignant reconstruction...has all the tensions of a contemporary mystery.”
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
”Wrenching...thoroughly captivating...reminds one of the novels of Michael Ondaatje.”
--The Washington Times
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Inside Flap
The Englishmans Daughter is the never-before-told story of these extraordinary men, their protectors, and of the haunting love affair between Private Robert Digby and Claire Dessenne, the most beautiful woman in Villeret. Their passion would result in the birth of a child known as The Englishmans Daughter, and in an act of unspeakable betrayal, a tragic legacy that would haunt the village for generations to come.
Through the testimonies of the villagers and the last letters of the soldiers, acclaimed journalist Ben Macintyre has pieced together a harrowing account of how life was lived behind enemy lines during the Great War, and offers a --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B007FU8I4S
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (January 12, 2002)
- Publication date : January 12, 2002
- Language : English
- File size : 1888 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 290 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #207,314 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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The main story of the book surrounds this love affair and the resulting child (still alive when the author wrote the book in 1999). After her birth, the child's father and his comrades were captured and four of them (including the father) were executed. This part of the book, and the subsequent reunion of the family in 1930, is told simply and rather elegantly by the author.
The interesting part of the story, to my mind, was the backdrop to the actual affair. I've always been fascinated by this sort of thing, and the author does a good job of recounting how the French civilians were treated during World War I if they were in territory occupied by the Germans. The Germans apparently looted quite thoroughly (the commander in the story issues a proclamation that eggs are for German officers exclusively!) and shot anyone who showed much defiance. There were French espionage rings operating behind German lines (one figures in the plot, murkily, in the background). There wasn't, however, the concerted effort to kill individual German soldiers and sabotage their operations that there was in the later war.
I enjoyed this book a great deal. I have MacIntyre's other books too, and I intend to read them when I get a chance.
In normal times, the village was rife with ancient family feuds, jealousies, gossip, and crime. The arrival of the British stragglers and the German troops created a kind of unity: protecting the British fugitives was a patriotic duty, they were considered trophies of resistance. At great risk to themselves, the villagers kept the British hidden (often in the same houses billeted with Germans)and fed. As months passed, the villagers' fears began to recede; relations between fugitives, their protectors, and the German invaders began to evolve. Individually, German troops were actually often human, courteous, helpful, and some even attractive. The British, on the other hand began to be seen as seven more mouths to feed in desperately hungry conditions. They were leading a soft life while others on both sides did the fighting, and the pregnancy of a village girl by one of the British soldiers produced a subtle but unstable reaction: old jealousies and animosities re-surfaced, whispering began, and the Germans began receiving anonymous denunciations.