How Huge the Night
Julien Losier knows war is coming, but he does not like living in the countryside, and he especially does not like the Jewish boy his parents have taken in. Julien misses Paris and his friends there, and he hates how the boys at his new school rally around a blockheaded bully named Henri. Meanwhile, Nika and Gustav, two Jewish teens from Austria, travel in secret, often going for days without food. By the time Nika and Gustav cross over to France, the Vichy government is in control. Julien’s family and several others in their village agree to protect the Jews, but Henri and his family are drawn in by the Vichy government’s promises of restored pride in France. Can Julien convince Henri to do the right thing?
While I enjoyed the first sixty pages of this book, the subsequent evangelical Christian tone was off-putting. The publisher states on its website that it is a Christian publisher, but someone reading the back cover of the book would not know this. The Christian message might have been successful had it been more subtle. Instead, the authors wield it as a bludgeon that crushes an otherwise interesting story. For example, Henri’s transformation validates Julien’s faith, but would Julien’s conviction have survived had Henri made a different choice? It all seemed too easy, too neatly tied up.
I did appreciate the tension between those who did not agree with the Vichy or Nazi policies and those who did, because most literature about occupied France tends to paint all the French as sympathetic to or working for the resistance. The Munns’ description of occupied France was honest, even if their back cover was not.