From the internationally bestselling author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre comes a thrilling novel, set in the South of France during World War II, that interweaves history and legend, love and conflict, passion and adventure, bringing to life brave women of the French Resistance and a secret they must protect from the Nazis. In Carcassonne, a colorful historic village nestled deep in the Pyrenees, a group of courageous and determined operatives are engaged in a lethal battle. Like their ancestors who fought to protect their land from Northern invaders seven hundred years before, these women—codenamed Citadel—fight to liberate their home from the Germans.
But smuggling refugees over the mountains into neutral territory and sabotaging their Nazi occupiers is only part of their mission. These members of the resistance must also protect an ancient secret that, if discovered by the enemy, could change the course of history.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Mosse is the multimillion selling author of four works of nonfiction, three plays, one volume of short stories and six novels, including the New York Times bestselling Labyrinth and Sepulchre. A popular presenter for BBC television and radio in the UK, she is also cofounder and chair of the prestigious Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and a member of the board of the National Theatre of Great Britain. In 2013, she was named as one of the Top 100 most influential people in British publishing and also awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She divides her time between England and Carcassonne, France.
The French Resistance is the major backdrop for this epic novel by Kate Mosse: Citadel. Playing more than just an important part in helping the allies to success in Western Europe and leading up to D-Day in June 1944 the French Resistance supplied the allies with important intelligence reports. They did a large amount of work to disrupt the German supply and communication lines in France. France surrendered in June 1940, which created many major problems for the French. A proud people this diminished and tarnished their pride. As a result the formation of a Nazi-approved Vichy government, mainly in the South of the country had let down France. The resistance movement was established to provide the allies with information to be able to attack the Germans when they could and to assist the escape of Allied airmen. As the story opens we meet some major players within the French Resistance who play an integral part in helping many escape to Spain though an underground tunnel. France could not handle the loss and the public had been told that the French army along the Maginot Line could take on the German’s if they attacked. So the Blitzkrieg surprised them and the non-occupied region of France, or Vichy France now became the home camp of the Germans ruled by Marshall Petain. Added in after the British attack on Mers el Kebir, an anti-British sentiment emerged in France. At this point there was no need to establish a resistance group but on June 18, 1940, Charles de Gaulle addresses the people of France in London. Calling on the French to fight the Germans. His message was heard and had a strong impact on the people of France. When the Vichy government, the area they ran and was run by the French decided to work in tandem with the Germans, attitudes changed. The French-Resistance movement is a term, which covered many anti-German resistance movements based in France.
Meet Sandrine Vidal an 18-year-old girl whose actions would let readers know that she is smart, alert yet quite naïve. Living with her sister and her housekeeper in what they felt was a safe area, she ventures out on an errand only to find herself embroiled in a dangerous situation. Seeing a man who looked like he was drowning she rushes over to try and help him but is attacked by an unknown assailant. Fearing that she was hurt someone comes to her aid but quickly leaves when he sees that help is on the way. As Sandrine relates to her rescuers what happened it appears that they really do not believe her story and coach and advice her not to report it to the police. But, she is headstrong and defies them as she tries to relate the incident to the police who shrug her off.
Dealing with Sandrine proves a challenge for her sister Margaret and her two friends Lucie and Max. But, this is just the tip of the violent iceberg as Sandrine joins them at a demonstration to support De Gaulle, listen to the speeches and hopefully allow France to become the free nation she was before the surrender. The Citadel, a group of women bound by their allegiance to help France and bring some to safety and away from the Germans will keep you on edge to the very end as we flash back in time to 342 AD and meet a monk who holds the secret to what some in the present are looking for
The time period is the Second World War and the main thrust of the story focuses on the resistance fighters in Carcassonne. But, going back to the fourth century, we meet a monk carrying valuable Codes in his tunic that would change the way the church would be looked at. With its seven verses that no one has translated it is said to contain words that are Evil. Meet Audric Baillard whose goal in the present is the get this Codex and use it to his advantage. Enlisting the aide of Sandrine to find the Codex and forcing her to leave the safety net of her home, her goal is to get it before the Germans do.
The primary focus of this novel focuses on women of part of what that named the Citadel. Strong, courageous and gold that let many to freedom saving them form the Nazis. Sandrine Vidal with the help of Raoul Pelletier run the spy network but many missions prove deadly, some result in their members being captures, tortured and killed and always hoping to escape detection. Leo Authie, the driving force for many of the incidents that happen and the one person who hopes to capture Sandrine, learn where the Codex is and leave no evidence behind, finds it hard to break her when she is finally captured, learns her strengths and forges ahead thinking that he will win. Within the expanse of two years from 1942-1944 between the occupation and liberation of Southern France so many different factions searched for one document: The Codex. Leo Authie working for the French military intelligence agency. Bombs explode, demonstrations and a single map what would reveal where this Codex is located reverts back to the fourth century. But, Authie is persistent, hoping to restore the Catholic faith to where he believes it should be. Arinius the monk tells his story as he guides us through many mountains, hills, valleys and lands until he comes to his final rest. Hidden within his tunic knowing that when this document is found and the words within it are release something would happen that would affect people in different ways. Just what kind of power does this document hold and how many lives would be lost finding it? When the words are spoken will it destroy evil?
Sandrine gets caught up in her missions and with her sister Marianne, Lucie, Genevieve and many others they create a network so powerful fighting for two years against the German Occupation ending in a battle in a hilltop village.
Deceptions, betrayals, lies and deceits come to the forefront as those that they think they could trust they cannot.
One man would risk it all in order to save so many others. Baillard had taken a vow as stated on page 539 to bear witness. To speak out so that the truth should not die even though he feared the power of the Codex he promised not to fail.
But, the police were corrupt each doing what would benefit themselves and not the other as we learn about Sylvere Laval, witness his brutal treatment of Sandrine and so many others and hear the voice of Leo Authie ordering him to obey his every command or bear the consequences. But, the author weaves the story from the fourth century to the story’s present as we learn more about Arinius, Lupa his wife and the courage they both showed to help those that were in trouble. A small iridescent bottle survived centuries and within this delicate bottle the answers might be revealed. An ending so powerful a young girl so determined and a people that would never give up as you read the seven verses, experience their power and learn the hidden meaning as Baillard recites the words on page 652.
What are the fate of Sandrine, Marianne, Lucie, Raoul and the rest of the Citadel? How far would Sandrine go to save what she felt need to be preserved? What happens when the final bullet is fired and the last body is laid to rest? What happens when Authie hears the words? What happens when the spirits come forth of the air? Shadows, faces hidden beneath hoods and shadow and flame. As Sandrine walks to the army of thought and witnesses and feels a sensation of peace she sees so many that have been long gone, the face of the monk, her father and finally those that died so others might live, those who gave their lives and now live, will hear your call as the Codex comes to life and she feels the words. Imagine witnessing the ghost army that had been called up? From Coustaussa, to Landguedoc, Pic De Vicdesso, Tarascon, Couiza and Gaul Tarasco in the fourth century and many other places traveled by Arinius in his struggle to survive and bring the Codex to the mountains of the Pyrene.
Hearing the plan that Baillard devised and hoping that his forgery would buy them some time the Citadel takes readers inside the camps, visualizing the brutality inflicted on the prisoners and praying that Baillard does not fail. But, things do not always go as planned and some who are captured are too weak and give in. Author Kate Mosse states in her conversation about the novel with Ann Patchett that this is a story to “Honor the significant role played by Frenchwomen in the Resistance, particularly in the southwest.” The novel as she writes is dedicated to the real women of the Carcassonne Resistance – the unknown women executed on August 19th, 1944 and whose identities are not known. An ending that will bring tears to your eyes and women who be endeared to your heart forever as we dedicate this review to those who gave their lives so that so many others can live and to the ghost army.
Author Kate Mosse takes readers back in time to the fourth century, allows us to experience the turmoil and danger of the Second World War in a novel so expertly researched, characters that are vividly depicted and an ending that will help readers understand why the women of the Citadel played such a vital part in saving so many. The plot is solid, Sandrine’s growth as a character from being a naïve teen to a strong fighter and leader only adds to the strength of this outstanding Five Star Novel. Historical Fiction, mystery, suspense, romance and heartache are what makes Kate Mosse stand apart and above the rest.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer