When Ruth Druart arrived in Paris in 1993, she was surprised by the number of plaques and monuments displayed for those who died during World War 2. Indeed, any tourist who spends time wandering the streets of Paris will come across these, with special areas showing the numbers of Jewish people who were taken and never heard of again. Ruth was shocked and began to speak to older residents. She was told by a woman that a whole school (260 pupils) was taken away and none of them survived.
Using first-hand sources and reading widely, she felt that she would like to complete a novel that showed the complexities and suffering of that period. Many French people were compromised, and terrible reprisals were enforced if they disobeyed orders.
We meet Jean-Luc, who lives in America with his wife Charlotte, and son Sam. They have a happy and comfortable life, having moved from France after the war. There are few reminders of that time. When Sam is thirteen, Jean- Luc is escorted from his home and taken for questioning by International police. It is revealed that he was a forced labour worker for the Germans at a railway station in France, where trains left early in the morning. They were open carriages full of people. They never returned.
Most of the people who were forced to board the train understood that they would die. When the mother of a one-month-old baby was herded into the queue for the train, she saw the face of Jean-Luc and passed her baby to him.
While Paris Slept reveals times and behaviours which we hope will never be repeated. It is extremely challenging to read and hard not to identify with the suffering and the pain felt by those involved. Love and compassion shine through the bleak times in this story.