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The Cost of Courage

Cover of The Cost of Courage

The Cost of Courage

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"The result is a mix of history, biography and memoir which reads like a nerve-racking thriller." --The Guardian (US)

This heroic true story of the three youngest children of a bourgeois Catholic family who worked together in the French Resistance is told by an American writer who has known and admired the family for five decades


In the autumn of 1943, André Boulloche became de Gaulle's military delegate in Paris, coordinating all the Resistance movements in the nine northern regions of France only to be betrayed by one of his associates, arrested, wounded by the Gestapo, and taken prisoner. His sisters carried on the fight without him until the end of the war. André survived three concentration camps and later became a prominent French politician who devoted the rest of his life to reconciliation of France and Germany. His parents and oldest brother were arrested and shipped off on the last train from Paris to Germany before the liberation, and died in the camps. Since then, silence has been the Boulloches's answer to dealing with the unbearable. This is the first time the family has cooperated with an author to recount their extraordinary ordeal.
"The result is a mix of history, biography and memoir which reads like a nerve-racking thriller." --The Guardian (US)

This heroic true story of the three youngest children of a bourgeois Catholic family who worked together in the French Resistance is told by an American writer who has known and admired the family for five decades


In the autumn of 1943, André Boulloche became de Gaulle's military delegate in Paris, coordinating all the Resistance movements in the nine northern regions of France only to be betrayed by one of his associates, arrested, wounded by the Gestapo, and taken prisoner. His sisters carried on the fight without him until the end of the war. André survived three concentration camps and later became a prominent French politician who devoted the rest of his life to reconciliation of France and Germany. His parents and oldest brother were arrested and shipped off on the last train from Paris to Germany before the liberation, and died in the camps. Since then, silence has been the Boulloches's answer to dealing with the unbearable. This is the first time the family has cooperated with an author to recount their extraordinary ordeal.
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    André is a handsome twenty-eight-year-old with brown hair and thick eyebrows that hover over a permanent glint in his eye. Nearly six feet tall, he walks with a tempered, youthful swagger. Before the war, friends considered him something of a dandy.
    André has been ordered back to occupied France by Charles de Gaulle, to be the general's personal military delegate in Paris. Pseudonym: Armand; code name: Hypotenuse; André's charge from the renegade general is to bring some order to the burgeoning Resistance movements now operating in eleven different departments in northern France...Like everyone in the Resistance arriving from England, he also carries a cyanide pill in his pants pocket. It will stay there, always--unless he is arrested. When he touches it with his index finger, it feels like insurance against torture. Or, perhaps, like his destiny. Either way, he knows he will swallow it if he is captured by the Germans.

    A certain fatalism fuels his fearlessness. But there is one irony that probably escapes him: the only thing that might muffle his heroism could be his own survival.

About the Author-
  • Charles Kaiser is the author of 1968 in America (Grove/Atlantic), one of the most admired popular histories of the music, politics, and culture of the 1960s, and The Gay Metropolis (Houghton Mifflin and Grove), the landmark history of gay life in America, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Lambda Literary Award winner. He is is a former reporter for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and a former press critic for Newsweek. His articles and reviews have also appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, New York, Vogue, Vanity Fair, The Guardian (UK), and New Republic, among other publications. He grew up in Washington, D.C., Dakar, Senegal, London, England, and Windsor, Connecticut. Since 1968 he has always lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, except for two and a half years he spent in France to research this book.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 13, 2015
    Kaiser (1968 in America), a former New York Times reporter, draws on historical documents, interviews, and private letters in this vivid family portrait that examines four siblings’ heroic contribution to the French resistance of WWII. Prior to the war, the Boulloche family enjoyed a liberal, bourgeois Parisian life. But in 1940 their son Andre, a dashing 24-year-old lieutenant stationed in Algeria, committed to “join the secret war against the Germans,” and soon his brother and sisters followed suit. Four years later Andre—pseudonym: Armand; codename: Hypotenuse—was handpicked by General De Gaulle to organize those in the Resistance known as the “Maquis.” Kaiser opens with Andre’s 1944 arrest by the Gestapo, retracing his transformation from highway engineer to secret agent. Rather than swallowing his cyanide pill, Andre becomes a “leader of his fellow prisoners” and is sent to a concentration camp. The Gestapo searches for his sister Christiane, a hero in her own right, but when the search proves unsuccessful, they seize and condemn her parents and older brother. Part two follows the family’s postwar rebuilding as Andre, who briefly served in De Gaulle’s cabinet, becomes a spokesman for the Socialist party. Kaiser’s use of Andre’s first-person narration can be distracting, but otherwise this is a riveting paean to unsung war heroes in occupied France.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from April 15, 2015
    A former reporter and award-winning author rescues the almost unbelievable account of one family's experience in Nazi-occupied France. Between the cruel caricature of a nation of collaborators and the purposeful, Charles de Gaulle-promoted myth of a country full of valiant resisters lies the truth for most of the French during World War II. In the same manner a young girl's diary once vivified the Holocaust and the fate of 6 million for a postwar audience, Kaiser (The Gay Metropolis: 1940-1996, 1997, etc.) tells, through the Boulloche family, the story of lives turned complicated by the bizarre realities of Vichy France. He fills us in first on the toll World War I took on France, on the Boulloche family pedigree, and on the iconoclastic, republican spirit of the parents, Jacques and Helene. Although by no means pro-German and for honorable reasons of their own, neither they nor their oldest son joined the Resistance. Nevertheless, their arrests, deportations, and deaths in the infamous internment camps all resulted from their silent approval of the decision by Andre and sisters Christiane and Jacqueline to actively oppose the Nazi occupation. Hitler, Eisenhower, Patton, Churchill, Roosevelt, and, of course, de Gaulle appear frequently in the background of this narrative and help supply just enough historical information to orient readers. In the foreground always, though, are the young Boulloches and their close confederates. Smuggling arms, recruiting friends, gathering information, enduring torture, tales of escape, secret knocks, Gestapo interrogations, fortuitous encounters, sabotage missions, clandestine apartments-all are part of their story. Their resolve and bravery and even the "romance" of their exploits are plain to readers but not to the survivors who knew too well the price the family paid. For 50 years they remained, even to their own children, largely silent about all of it. Thanks to a family connection forged in the war's immediate wake, Kaiser has managed to gather all the painful details, and he assembles them masterfully. At once heroic and heartbreaking, this story leaves an indelible mark.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2015

    Seeking to reverse the dismissiveness that frequently surrounds the French Resistance during the Nazi Occupation, former New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporter Kaiser (The Gay Metropolis) delivers readers to street-level Paris, in-step with the three youngest Boulloche siblings, who belonged to an upper-middle-class family known for their intellectual pursuits and moral obligation--and who risked everything to liberate their country. This immersion contextualizes the life-and-death world for readers; it also creates in the immediacy of minute-to-minute choices confronted, their aftermath, and the sacrifices made, a cinematic heartbeat. Son Andre becomes Charles de Gaulle's military delegate in Paris, coordinating the Resistance of the nine northern regions of France only to be betrayed by an associate (surviving three concentration camps on a career path dedicated to the reconciliation of France and Germany). Meanwhile, his sisters Christiane and Jacqueline continue the underground fight, decoding secret telegrams, smuggling guns by bicycle, often in a basket underneath eggs or vegetables, until the end of the war. VERDICT Kaiser's account of a family's devotion and resilience in the face of horrific tyranny tells a highly recommended story of resolve and bravery that can't help but feel romantic in its selfless and profound obligation, but this is not gloss nor ungrounded canonization.--Benjamin Malczewski, Toledo-Lucas Cty. P.L., MI

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly "[A] vivid family portrait that examines four siblings' heroic contribution to the French resistance of WWII...a riveting paean to unsung war heroes in occupied France."
  • The Missourian "[R]iveting... Charles Kaiser captures the devotion the brother and two sisters have for one another and their extended family."
  • Edmund White, author of Inside a Pearl "The Cost of Courage is good history, loving biography, excellent reporting. It turns out the cost of courage is beyond the means of most of us."
  • Caroline Moorehead, author of A Train In Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance In Occupied France "Even now, almost three quarters of a century after the second world war, the role played by the French resistance in German occupied and Vichy France is often overlooked. Charles Kaiser has not only unearthed the story of an extraordinary family, but set it against a world in which courage, selflessness and resilience were of greater importance than personal survival and collaboration, however trivial. It makes for a fascinating book."
  • Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs "In this poignant personal tale, Kaiser explores the emotions and breaks through the silences that haunted an amazing family after their experiences in the French resistance to Nazi occupation. The result is a compelling and heart-wrenching book about courage, love, and the complex shadings of heroism."
  • Alan Riding, author of And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris "One legacy of the Nazi occupation of France was secrecy, a shield that long hid the heroism of resisters no less than the shame of collaborators. In this gripping true-life drama, Charles Kaiser reveals the long-buried story of one prosperous Parisian family that paid a high price for the bravery of its children. Until now, only through silence could they live with the painful cost of their courage."
  • Robert O. Paxton, author of Vichy France "A very compelling story."
  • Hendrik Hertzberg, author of Politics: Observations & Arguments, 1966-2004 "Charles Kaiser deserves a Legion of Honor red ribbon for bringing to vibrant life the suspenseful, never-before-told true story of a family's courage, suffering and ultimate triumph amid the existential dangers and challenges of the French Resistance. Chapeau!"
  • The Washington Post "A dramatic, often affecting account of the emergence of gay people from fear and self-hatred into uncloseted, self-confident participation in society."
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