One Day in Oradour by Helen Watts

One Day in Oradour

Written by Helen Watts

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Selected by our Editorial Experts

June 2013 Book of the Month This powerful novel tells the shocking story behind the decimation of an entire French village by SS Troops towards the end of World War II - and of the escape of the only surviver, a seven year old boy. The author brings vividly to life the terrible human cost of war.

One Day in Oradour is based on true events in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10th June 1944. The village has been in the news spotlight again in recent months because of a new German investigation into the massacre following the arrest of six former SS soldiers believed to have been involved in the killings. With a twist in the tale, this is a story which leaves the reader surprised, inspired and profoundly moved.

A Piece of Passion from Kate Paice, Commissioning Editor, Bloomsbury Publishing

When I started to read this story, I’d never heard of Oradour. By the time I’d finished, I knew I’d never forget it. This fictionalized account of the terrible events that took place in a small, peaceful village one hot summer’s day grabbed me from the moment I opened it, and builds up with almost unbearable tension. It’s a tragic, hard-hitting story, and Helen Watts doesn’t shrink from showing us that, but what makes it linger in the memory is the hope she shows us - the love of ordinary families, the amazing courage of a little boy, and the flicker of humanity we sometimes see in even the hardest of hearts.

Helen Watts writes...It was a visit to the memorial village at Oradour-sur-Glane. I arrived knowing nothing and left with a head still full of questions about the hundreds of amazing stories waiting to be discovered among the fire-scorched rubble. And it was the unforgettable photograph in the museum there, of seven-year-old orphan Roger Godfrin standing amid the ruins of his former home, the only schoolchild to escape from the massacre. The same photograph which ended up on my front cover.

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One Day in Oradour by Helen Watts

On a hot summer afternoon in 1944, SS troops wiped out an entire French village. 644 men, women and children died that day. Just one child survived. This book tells the story of what happened in Oradour, and imagines what drove both the SS officer who ordered the massacre, and the seven-year-old boy who escaped it. Powerful, moving and almost unbearably tense, this book weaves the truth about what happened to the people in Oradour into a powerful fictional story centred on two characters: the plucky, inspirational seven-year-old Alfred Fournier, refugee and resident of Oradour, and the hot-headed, power-hungry SS commander who shattered his world and changed his life for ever, Major Gustav Dietrich. As their two worlds collide, we gain a fascinating insight into the extremes and contradictions of human behaviour and emotion.


A compelling narrative which looks deep inside human behaviour and the terrifying consequences of man's actions. * * Very evocative -- Ellen Krajewski, Librarian * The Hemel Hempstead School * Watts...handles the brutal truth with sensitivity, without shying away from the facts. * The Historical Novel Society * A profound, moving summary...commentary so evocative of the specific village landscape, as well as the many personal tragedies of that event. Extremely adept in treading a fine line, describing the events of the day, accurately. The commentary is universal. -- Jim Berger This is a compelling and sadly true account of one of the worst atrocities of the Second World War. The novel is a strong addition to that most poignant of genres, the literature of war * The School Librarian *

About the Author

Helen Watts

Helen Watts is a writer, editor and publisher. Her experience spans magazine, book and online publishing for children and teachers and she has written and produced fiction, non-fiction and classroom resources on a vast range of topics - from The Olympic Games and the football World Cup to cyber-bullying and teenage fashion. Helen is also the Schools Coordinator for the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival.

She is married with two children – Jack and Georgia - and lives in Warwickshire.

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256 pages


Helen Watts
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A & C Black Publishers Ltd an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date

9th May 2013




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