Today, a powerful new book by Kristin Beck hits shelves: The Winter Orphans, set in southern France in 1942. Château de la Hille is a run-down castle that’s become home to a hundred Jewish refugees. Ella and Hanni are just two of the children there, without their parents and stuck in a seemingly endless war. When new danger strikes, Swiss volunteers Rösli and Anne-Marie will do everything they can to lead their charges to safety.
In the past several years, I’ve become rather picky when it comes to books set in World War II. While it’s an important and horrific time in recent history, it’s easy to become burnt out on it. However, The Winter Orphans stands out: With its focus on children refugees, the exhilaration of escaping through secret mountain passes, and its rich cast of characters, it looks like a particularly fresh and impactful story. This is a WWII story that I’m eager to read.
Find out more about it below, and let me know if you’re planning to pick up The Winter Orphans. If you’ve already read it, let me know how you liked it in the comments! I’m hoping to read it soon, so stay tuned for my review.
A poignant and ultimately triumphant novel based on the incredible true story of children who braved the formidable danger of guarded, wintry mountain passes in France to escape the Nazis, from the acclaimed author of Courage, My Love.
Southern France, 1942
In a remote corner of France, Jewish refugee Ella Rosenthal has finally found a safe haven. It has been three years since she and her little sister, Hanni, left their parents to flee Nazi Germany, and they have been pursued and adrift in the chaos of war ever since. Now, they shelter among one hundred other young refugees in a derelict castle overseen by the Swiss Red Cross.
Swiss volunteers Rösli Näf and Anne-Marie Piguet uphold a common mission: to protect children in peril. Rösli, a stubborn and resourceful nurse, directs the colony of Château de la Hille, and has created a thriving community against all odds. Anne-Marie, raised by Swiss foresters, becomes both caretaker and friend to the children, and she vows to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.
However, when Germany invades southern France, safeguarding Jewish refugees becomes impossible. Château de la Hille faces unrelenting danger, and Rösli and Anne-Marie realize that the only way to protect the eldest of their charges is to smuggle them out of France. Relying on Rösli’s fierce will and Anne-Marie’s knowledge of secret mountain paths, they plot escape routes through vast Nazi-occupied territory to the distant border. Amid staggering risk, Ella and Hanni embark on a journey that, if successful, could change the course of their lives and grant them a future.
Get the Book
You can buy The Winter Orphans here – it’s available now as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|The Winter Orphans by Kristin Beck|
|Number of Pages||416|
|Original Publication Date||September 13, 2022|
About the Author
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, I often write to the sound of drumming rain and percolating coffee, and I wake up every day excited to do so. My books center on overlooked women in history who led courageous, often riveting lives.
Growing up, I loved listening to my grandmother’s stories of her experiences during World War II. Shortly after graduating from nursing school, my grandmother enlisted with the Canadian army and shipped to Europe to work in frontline hospitals. She cared for patients in canvas tents strung across muddy fields, helped transform bombed-out buildings into clearing stations, and eventually fell in love with my grandfather, who was an American soldier. When they returned to North America, my grandparents settled down, raised children, and assumed quiet lives. That’s the part that compels me: to most people, my grandmother appeared to be a typical wife and mother, yet she concealed an extraordinary, unexpected past.
My grandmother’s stories motivated me to look for others like them. My first novel, COURAGE, MY LOVE (Berkley/Penguin Random House) explores the similarly unsung role of women in the Italian Resistance during World War II. These women were, like my grandmother, ordinary people living through unthinkable events, who chose bravery in the face of danger. They provide a powerful example for how we might navigate our own lives in uncertain times, and I’m continually inspired by them.
My forthcoming novel, THE WINTER ORPHANS, (Berkley/Penguin Random House) is also a tale of tremendous courage, shown both by women volunteers and the refugee children they cared for during World War II in southern France. The heroes of this novel are based on real people, and it was a true privilege to explore their remarkable story.
Prior to writing full time, I was a high school English teacher, with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Washington and a Master’s in Teaching from Western Washington University. I was fortunate to live in Italy twice, once as a college student and later as a teacher. These days, when I’m not writing or diving down research rabbit holes, I love to garden, hike, and read. I can often be found buying far too many books at local bookstores, drinking far too much coffee, and getting lost in the Pacific Northwest woods and mountains with my husband and children.