Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Village of Scoundrels fictionalizes a true tale of heroism from World War II.

Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus. Amulet, 2020, 299 pages

Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15

Recommended for: ages 12-15

May, 1943: the mountain village of Les Lauzes, obscure though it is, has come to the attention of the Vichy government in France and their Nazi overlords. Officer Perdant has been sent to keep an eye on things and report any suspicious activity. Suspicions abound: for one thing, there seems to be too many teens and children at the “Beehive,” the group home for orphans headed by Monsieur Boulet.  And the population of the village doesn’t seem entirely consistent. But while Perdant is watching the village, the village is watching him. Philippe the refugee smuggler, John-Paul the master forger, Celeste the courier, Henni and Max the concentration-camp survivors from Germany, Jules the 12-year-old “Scoundrel,” and Pastor Autin who preaches peace and practices non-violent resistance–all have reason to be on guard. Officer Perdant is not heartless, and the passion of these young people stirs unwelcome feelings of sympathy. But the law is the law and Jews are officially deemed undesirable, and he has a job to do . . .

The author has based this story, and most of the characters, on the real-life village of LeChambon-sur-Lignon and its inhabitants. Soon after German occupation, the region became a refuge for Jews escaping both Nazi Germany and Vichy France. Acting in concert, with no apparent security breaches or informants, these citizens were responsible for saving an estimated 3200 lives.

In some ways, Village of Scoundrels is based a little too closely on actual events. The action is largely episodic and lacks the tension of a strong central narrative. But it’s a story worth knowing, and well worth reading, with some interesting discussion points (see below). At a time when so many were doing the wrong thing, LeChambon was doing the right thing, at great potential cost to themselves. Why?

Overall rating: 4.25 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 4.5Artistic/literary value: 3.75Discussion Questions:

What do you think motivated the people of LeChambon to risk their lives to help strangers?On p. 73, during a sermon by Pastor Autin, Henni wonders, “Aren’t we all God’s children? . . . The difficult thing was to be able to perceive that [divine] spark in others—it could also be hard to see it in yourself.” Agree or disagree?On pages 217-218, Officer Perdant defends himself to Jules by insisting he’s only doing his job: “It’s not who I am.” Jules replies, “You are what you do.” Do you think Jules is correct? Why or why not?We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.


Also at Redeemed Reader:

Other books by Margi Preus: Heart of a Samurai, Shadow on the Mountain

Virginia Hall is a walk-on character in Village of Scoundrels. Read more about her in our review of The Lady Is a Spy.
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