Going by the title line `A girl's bitter struggle with the enemy in occupied France', you'd think you were in for some pretty grim and bleak reading. Actually that's not the case. Partly because it's autobiographical - so we know she lived, literally, to tell the tale - but also because this story of the eponymous Rachel's quiet desperation and courage is lifted by descriptive passages that are nothing short of exquisite - in fact the rich descriptions of the Auvergne reminded me of D H Lawrence. Kellermann writes in a terse style whose very tightness speaks of repressed emotion, while ironically her dark humour lightens the page with telling acuity, powerfully describing the sharply polished and pressed Gestapo as `coal-black shining crows, their left wings marked with the blood-red insignia, the Devil's swastika well in evidence.' for example.
A talented pianist and a Chemistry student, Rachel volunteers to join the fight against the occupying Nazis and the turncoat Vichy government - and her role is covert surveillance of German troop movements and the supply of provisions to the Resistance fighters. Already fighting illness and malnutrition that's left her covered in painful, suppurating boils, Rachel tremblingly offers up her virginity to a boorish drunk farmer in order to secure the bleak mountainside shelter that will be her operational base and, accompanied only by her faithful dog, Nourse, and a gentle shepherd boy, dedicates her life to the Maquis.
Read it and find out for yourself whether the ending can be said to be a happy one - but there's probably no better summary than that provided, rather impressively, by the author's friend, Fay Weldon: `A fascinating tale and true. Beautifully written'.