France, 1940. The once glittering boulevards of Paris teem with spies, collaborators and the Gestapo now that France has fallen to Hitler's Wermacht. For André Breton, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry and scores of other cultural elite who have been denounced as enemies of the Third Reich the fear of imminent arrest, deportation and death defines their daily life. Their only salvation is the Villa Air-Bel, a château outside Marseille where a group of young people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep them alive.
A powerfully told, meticulously researched true story filled with suspense, drama and intrigue, Villa Air-Bel delves into a fascinating albeit hidden saga in our recent history. It is a remarkable account of how a diverse intelligentsia — intense, brilliant and utterly terrified — was able to survive one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century. (From HarperCollins Canada)
From the book
It was slightly after 4 A.M. on the morning of Sseptember 25, 1940, when Lisa Fittko opened the door of the inn in the seaport town of Banyuls-sur-Mer and looked apprehensively up avenue Puig del Mas. After seven years on the run, she had grown adept at controlling her panic. She looked across at the harbor and listened for the sound of the waves beating on the shore. She tried to match her breathing to that calming rhythm. She glanced at the mayor's office on the central square. The gendarmes would not be arriving for hours yet. Up the avenue to the right, she noted that the vineyard workers had already begun to come out of their houses. It was time to leave.
From Villa Air-Bel by Rosemary Sullivan ©2007. Published by HarperCollins Canada.