I don't want to give anything away, but the tension is high as the resistance fights again the German occupiers and the main character flirts with a German officer in hopes of gaining information.
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For today, please enjoy this excerpt from Wolfsangel and leave a comment to be registered to win --two ebook giveaways in the U.S. and one signed paperback in Europe.
We gather in the cemetery, before the ossuary, withI'll see you again on Saturday with my review. And leave a comment either today or Saturday or both to be entered to win a copy.
families. Our heads dipped, the mayor begins his
memorial speech to commemorate the tragedy that became a
legend around these parts; the evil that part of me still believes
was the result of my own reckless actions.
There isn’t a region in France that didn’t pay the price of war
with the blood of its children, but here in the village of Luciesur-
Vionne one can truly contemplate the depths to which the
pure devilry of man was cast.
The chill of last winter stole my husband, and though my
extended family are with me, I feel lonely without him by my
side, remembering the fateful afternoon that has tormented me
for sixty-eight years — the sickening odour of charred flesh, the
smoke parching my throat, the green-brown blur of the woods
as I fled the clomp of German boots. My fingertips skitter across
the scar on my left arm, eternal reminder of that inconceivable
climb, then the free-fall of an unstrung puppet, and the certainty
that I too would die any second.
My conscience might have been soothed if I’d been punished;
if I’d had to pay somehow, but by then there was barely a soul left
to sit in judgement.
Perhaps that’s why I chose to become a midwife, bringing
new lives into a world from which I’d taken so many. Or, as my
mother claimed, the birthing skills were simply in my blood.
I glance across at my granddaughter, who wears the bone
angel necklace these days. She’s gripping the pendant between
her thumb and forefinger as I used to; as countless kinswomen
of L’Auberge des Anges did before us. I touch the spot where it
once lay against my own breast, feeling its warmth as if I were
still wearing the little sculpture.
I wonder again if my daughter and granddaughter truly
understand what that heirloom endured with me through those
years of the occupation. Can they grasp the comfort, the strength
it gave me? I doubt it. You’d have to live through a thing like that
to really know how it was.
My eyes slide down the list of names engraved on the ossuary’s
marble plaque, their cries, curses and laughter chiming in my
ears as if it were yesterday.
The breeze catches the perfume of lilacs and splays the
velvety heads of the red roses, like opened hearts, as the mayor
concludes his sombre speech. We stand in silence for a minute,
remembering those who never got the chance to grow old —
loved ones who perished for our freedom.
From beside the row of the oldest, grandest headstones, the
band strikes up La Marseillaise, the trumpets drowning out
shrill birdsong and the low hum of a passing tractor.
We trudge out of the cemetery and head along the woodland
path to the Vionne River for a picnic lunch, as we do every year.
It’s part of the ritual.
Ip, ip trills a bird. Ga, ga cackles another. A dragonfly hovers
over a seam of current that folds the waters of the river across
stones, ferns and errant flower heads. The Vionne displays her
illusion of tranquillity, though I know, better than most, that it
has claimed victims — witches of the Dark Ages punished by
drowning, and the children who perished two centuries ago, for
whom a stone memorial cross sits on the ridge.
I think of the others who died here — those who have no
such memorial; not the slightest trace, for rain and snow have
long since washed away the bloodstains. I have always wondered
who found them and where they were buried, and if it weren’t
for a dog-eared sepia photograph gathering dust in a secreted
wooden box, I might convince myself they had never existed.
After the picnic, my daughter offers to drive me home to the
farm. No, thank you very much, I tell her, I’m only eighty-nine,
still quite capable of walking back to L’Auberge.
L’Auberge des Anges, haven for weary travellers, orphans and
refugees, which has withstood centuries of plague, revolution
and war, reclines on the crest of the slope like a solid matriarch.
I shuffle through the wooden gateway, the sun flinging its
warmth across the cobbled courtyard, the pink puffs of cherry
blossom and the white backsides of rabbits bobbing through the
My daughter fancies herself as an artist and as I negotiate
the uneven cobbles, I dodge the collection of sculptures she
has fashioned from scrap metal, waste and discarded objects —
effigies of our loved ones who never came home. The official
document confirming their deaths didn’t arrive until 1948 but it
seemed we’d already mourned them for a lifetime.
Curious travellers who have heard of the tragedy stop off in
Lucie-sur-Vionne on their way south, or west to the Atlantic
coast, for summer holidays. Once they’ve toured the legendary
site they find their way up here to L’Auberge des Anges, and
wander amongst my daughter’s sculptures. They ask us who the
people were, and they want to know about Max, as they admire
his paintings in the gallery.
I climb the steps, wincing as another barb pierces my frail
shell. It appears from nowhere, this guilt I claimed from the
smouldering wake of that evil reprisal. I know it will shadow
me for days, weeks or months. Then, as winter seems to have
settled forever, spring arrives, and my self-reproach will vanish
for a time, only to return to the same dark nooks of my mind,
the cycle beginning again.
No one ever knew for certain why they marched into Lucie
sur-Vionne that hot June morning of 1944, but it is a crime I
have never been able to forget. Nor can I forgive. Least of all