Friday, October 9, 2020

"Village of Scoundrels"

Margi Preus is a New York Times bestselling author of the Newbery Honor Book, Heart of a Samurai and other novels and picture books for young readers, including the Minnesota Book Award winning West of the Moon, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award book The Clue in the Trees, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series.

Preus applied the Page 69 Test to her recent novel, Village of Scoundrels, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Village of Scoundrels is in the middle of a very tense scene in which one of the character’s mother is about to be deported from a French internment camp to Poland (to Auschwitz, but they don’t know that yet). This scene is a nearly verbatim retelling of the true-life story of Hanne Liebmann, the inspiration for the character Henni, and the person who related the tale to me. Even so, it was the single most challenged scene by my editor, managing editor, CE, and several other readers, who couldn’t believe things could possibly transpire the way that they did. Read it to see for yourself, but I’ll tell you in advance it is true, and it really happened the way I describe it.

Teen-aged Henni has previously been extracted from the internment camp and sheltered in the village of the title (the real life Le Chambon-sur-Lignon). Henni gets a message that her mother is ill and she returns to the camp only to find that her mother, along with a thousand others, is about to be deported. Henni finds the cattle car containing her mother and climbs inside. It’s a highly emotional moment and particularly fraught because we don’t know if Henni will be allowed to leave or will be deported along with everyone else.

In their brief conversation, Henni's mother talks about how, over time, their rights had been eroded by the Nazi government in Germany, until finally “'all that is left is our lives. And it seems they must have those, too.’ She clutched Henni’s shoulders and whispered, ‘Don’t let them take you.’”

This is exactly what the novel is about: how the Jewish teens and children rescued from French concentration camps manage to stay out of the clutches of the Nazi occupiers and how the teenagers of the village help shelter them, forge I.D. papers for them, and smuggle them to safety, all while staying one step ahead of the authorities.
Visit Margi Preus's website.

--Marshal Zeringue