The Cost of Courage
In his book The Cost of Courage author Charles Kaiser brings the horror of existing in occupied France during World War II front and center.
Kaiser focuses his attention on three siblings, André, Jaqueline, and Christiane Boulloche and their life on the edge. Their love of France drives them to work with the French Resistance starting with the occupation by the Nazis. This is a decision they never turn away from or regret making.
He captures the devotion these siblings have for one another and their family as well as their extreme devotion to their country. This is especially strong in the scenes where he describes the capture of Andre by the Nazis, and the pain the sisters experience not knowing where he was taken nor the state of his existence.
Their lives in the Resistance must be kept secret to all except other members—even their parents have little knowledge of their work. Kaiser’s description of the detention of their parents and their eventual placement in concentration camps, resulting in their mother’s death, is spellbinding. Of particular interest is the manner in which Kaiser takes us through the many clandestine details that Resistance workers have to follow to avoid detection and capture.
Kaiser has produced a riveting story about the Boulloches’ harrowing experiences during this time. Although he details the lives of all three, he focuses more attention on Christiane with somewhat shorter trips into the activities of André and Jaqueline. Throughout the book, Kaiser makes it clear that they are definitely three parts that make the whole.
The book is divided into two parts—Part I is the larger of the two and details the family’s personal histories and their experiences with the Resistance. There are moments when Kaiser wanders away from the Boulloches when he introduces the reader to other important members of the Resistance such as Andre Postel-Vinay and the vital role he plays in the Resistance. Kaiser devotes a lengthy chapter to the importance of this man and provides insight into his relationship with the Boulloches.
In Part II, Kaiser reveals the aftermath of the war and its effects on the siblings. He traces their marriages, their families, and their continued remembrances of the events of World War II on their lives. He discusses the deaths of Andre and Jaqueline and how they are remembered by their families.
Kaiser chose to write this story in the present tense; a decision that places the reader not only in the minds of these courageous individuals, but allows the reader to experience first hand the moments of near disaster as well as those of jubilant success.
In his Afterword, Kaiser makes an interesting observation about how “. . . most Americans are smugly dismissive of the way the French behaved during the Nazi Occupation.”
To emphasize this point, he quotes Marcel Ophuls, from his documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity: “If one hasn’t been through—as our people mercifully did not go through—the horror of an occupation by a foreign power you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that.” Of this quote, Kaiser makes his pronouncement, “That is one of the most important and least understood lessons of World War II.
Everyone interested in World War II should read this book. For those whose history may be muddled about the role that many French men and women played in that horrific event, their understanding will be clarified by reading The Cost of Courage.