Christine Lenoir's early childhood memories are vague. Told that her family perished of influenza, she grows up in the aftermath of World War II believing herself fortunate that her parents at least did not die violently, as so many did, and because she found a good and loving home. But she witnesses the live telecast of Lee Harvey Oswald's murder, strange dreams and terrifying images begin to plague her. As her faint recollections of the horrors of her childhood become stronger, Christine embarks on a quest to discover what her visions mean. She ultimately unearths a history she never knew existed and one the world had largely forgotten. What follows is one woman's journey to the ruins of a small town called Oradour to find her truth and to reconcile her belief in God with the horrifying acts perpetrated against her family.
A High and Hidden Place is also a journey back to a day unlike any other June 10, 1944 when the citizens of a quiet French village were simply leading their lives, unaware that in a matter of hours they would meet their terrible fate.
At its heart, A High and Hidden Place is not only an unforgettable meditation on the aftermath of war, it is also the story of a young woman's search for her family, her beloved mother, and the history that continues to haunt us all.
About the Author
Michele Claire Lucas has lived in Hong Kong and France and currently resides in New York. A former magazine photo editor, she is now a full-time writer. This is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
A High and Hidden PlaceA Novel
By Michele Lucas
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Michele Lucas
All right reserved.
It was early morning. I walked, as I did each day at this time, along the small market street just around the corner from my apartment. As I went along, from butcher shop to bakery to greengrocer, I filled my string bag with the provisions I would need for the day. I had already bought a small bifteck, a bunch of carrots, a baguette, a pint of milk. It remained only to stop at the patisserie for a piece of my favorite almond cake, a dessert for my evening meal.
I already knew the shopkeepers on the street. They greeted me warmly and called me by name even though I had only been living in the neighborhood for a few months. My small apartment did not have an ice box, and so I shopped each day along with the housewives of the quartier, which was the usual way at this time, even for those who possessed modern appliances. I enjoyed making my early morning rounds, choosing my provisions, planning my day as well as my meals as I went along. I enjoyed the camaraderie with the merchants, the other shoppers, the same women each day. I looked forward to their friendly smiles, the tidbits of neighborhood gossip, the inquiries as to my health and well-being. It was as though I were a member of a small country community andnot just an anonymous resident in a big city. A newcomer, the local residents always made me feel as though I belonged.
I had recently spent a year in New York at the main office of the news magazine for which I worked, and then I had returned to France and to my job at the Paris bureau of World magazine.
I loved my new home, on the top floor of an old building at 18, avenue de la Motte Picquet, on the Left Bank near Les Invalides. Motte Picquet was a fine, wide boulevard lined with chestnut trees and old buildings, many with grand facades featuring ornate stonework and fancy wrought-iron railings around their verandahs. At the corner was a friendly, cheerful bistro where I felt comfortable eating alone and where, soon enough, the waiters knew my name as I knew theirs. They always remembered what I had been willing to tell them about my life, and they loved to hear the latest goings-on at the famous news magazine where I worked. In the middle of the block was a small cinema that showed older French as well as foreign films, and, of course, just off the boulevard was the street lined with shops that I traversed each day. At the end of this street was a small neighborhood church, which I had never entered.
The apartment itself was a quirky place, for it was an apartment within an apartment. My small rooms -- a sitting room, a bedroom, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom -- had been made out of one corner of a spacious flat that belonged to a famous singer, Monsieur Pierre Bernac. I entered by the main door into a large entrance hallway, then turned right toward the door leading to my sitting room. To the left were Monsieur Bernac's rooms. The only one I had been permitted to see was a spacious library with overstuffed furniture and a grand piano. It was here that the singer, retired now from performing himself, gave lessons to a select group of students who came from all over the world to study with him, so great was his reputation. It was in this wonderful room that the tall, imperious man had interviewed me, with great seriousness, great intensity, about my qualifications for living under his roof. I had to assure him that I intended to live alone, that I was a quiet person, that I did not give parties, and that I led a sober existence. My references from my convent school and university and employer probably reassured him as to my character and lifestyle, but there must have been residual doubts about a single young woman, for when he gave over the keys to his front door and to my own, he shook his head as though he thought he was making a serious mistake. Each time I passed him, coming or going, he greeted me politely if formally, but always with a dubious expression as though he suspected I had a man stashed behind my door with whom I was planning raucous parties.
One of the pleasures of my new home was the wonderful music, splendid arias and lyrical songs, that wafted from the library just adjacent to my bedroom. The students were all male, with wonderful, rich voices, and it was as though private concerts had been included in my rent. I had been told by the wine merchant on the street where I shopped that Monsieur Bernac was -- he whispered the words -- a homosexual. Living within the confines of a homosexual's private world was somehow exciting to me, as though I were part of a decadent way of life. I had to suppose that Monsieur Bernac's students were not necessarily of their teacher's sexual persuasion, but I couldn't help looking at the young men coming and going and wondering which one might be the great man's lover, or perhaps which ones, since I judged the life of a homosexual male to be a promiscuous one. Of course, I had no knowledge on which to base such an assumption.
I was grateful to be back in France after my year in New York. It was an interesting experience working there and I had learned a lot about my profession. But the hectic pace had worn me out and some of the people with whom I worked were harsh and foul-mouthed and disagreeable. Not everyone of course. I had met one nice man about my own age who wrote for the science and medical sections of the magazine, and he had made my time in New York more tolerable ...
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