Monday, June 20, 2011

How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn

A teenager's choices during the darkness of World War II will change him forever.

Julien is a fifteen year old, dismayed at having to relocate from Paris to Tanieux, his father's hometown in southern France. His father will teach in a new school in this village. In the early stages of World War II, Julien's father is hoping that the Germans will not invade that far into southern France.
Julien is treated like an outsider, a condition that worsens as his parents take in a Jewish boy, Benjamin. Julien sits in church on Sunday but has trouble refraining from fighting his antagonistic schoolmates during the week.
Julien's family listen to the news of the Germans invading Holland and Belgium. Despite the heroic actions of the Dutch, the Germans are on their way to France.
Julien faces a serious decision. Is he willing to have Benjamin stay, even if it puts his own family in danger? The situation becomes all the more serious as Paris falls to the Nazis and the French government surrenders.
Unknown to the people in Tanieux, their lives are about to become more complicated. Julien sees two ragged teenagers get off the Tanieux train. The stationmaster is determined to send them back to where they came from. Food in Tanieux was rationed and there was no extra for refugees.
But Julien helps to see that they are able to stay in the village, hidden from the antagonistic mayor, stationmaster and his son, Henri.
When the Henri finds out the refugees are still in the village, he confronts Julien, whom he despises. Julien must face his own hatred of Henri. Can he love his enemies, as his faith in Jesus requires?
What will happen to the refugees? Will Henri tell his dad who will see them sent to the Jewish camp?

In the Munns' novel, the village of Tanieux represents Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a village of 3,000 people in southern France. Far from the occupied section of France, this village saved, over the course of the war, the lives of more than 3,000 Jews. They took people into their own homes and fed them, even as the French government was collaborating with the Nazis. Every home hid Jews, sometimes for years. No refugee was ever turned away or denounced.

Lydia Munn and her husband were missionaries in France and spent ten years in St. Etienne, near the small town that provides the setting for this novel. While in France, she read the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and wrote a book about it. It was never published. After Heather graduated from college with a BA in Literature, Lydia asked her to help rewrite the novel. The mother daughter team has tried to be as realistic as possible with the situation while keeping the novel suitable for teens.
Heather grew up in France and now lives in rural Illinois.

This is a great novel for teen readers. Issues of loyalty, prejudice, and forgiveness are dealt with in the story. A great discussion guide at makes this novel a fine choice for teen reading groups.

See more information about the book, the true story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, and how the mother-daughter duo came to write this book:

The authors have included a number of foreign words in this novel. You'll find a glossary at

Watch the video trailer.

Kregel Publications, 304 pages.

I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.


JoyAnne said...

Sounds like a good read for my daughter. I liked your review.

I'm following you now, will you please follow me?

Heather Munn said...

Thanks very much for your review, including your wonderfully accurate summary. (Down to the bad guy's motivations, which I'm honestly not sure how you knew!) Also the links. It was great fun putting the website together and I'm glad to see people enjoy it.