One Day in Oradour

By Helen Watts

1. This is such a shocking story it's hard to believe it really happened.  It's even more shocking that more people aren't aware of it.

Watts vividly brings to life the events on that fateful day during the Second World War when a whole French village was wiped out on the order of one SS Officer.  There is a real sense both of the way of life of the French villagers and of life within the military regime.  We particularly loved how authentic the dialogue was in contrasting the different ways of life.

The division of the story into different dated time periods and the very short sections within each part gives a very real sense of time ticking and builds up the tension, making us almost afraid to turn the page even though we knew what the outcome would be.   The matter of fact description further increases the tension and futility and inevitability of the outcome.  Because we see the story unfold from the point of view of the 7 year old Alfred as well as the SS Commander we come to understand both the brutality and the bravery of war.

As fascinating as the story itself is the inclusion of the Epilogue written by the author, showing how and why the book came about.  This anchors the story even further into reality and makes it all the more hard hitting.  This is definitely one of those stories which does more than any History textbook ever could to make history feel very real. We'd definitely read other fictionalised stories by Helen Watts.

By Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland

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