2014 Forest of Reading, White Pine Award — Winner, Nonfiction
The true story of how a young Québécois nun ended up a prisoner of war in Buchenwald and how her daughter discovered her secrets.
In this true story, Armande Martel, a young nun from Quebec, is arrested by the Germans in 1940 during a stay at her religious order’s mother house in Brittany. She spends the war years in a German concentration camp. After her return to Canada, she leaves the Church, finds the love of her life in Montreal, and adopts Lise Dion.
Growing up, Lise is familiar with only a few facts of her mother’s past. It’s when she clears her mother’s small apartment after her death that Lise Dion discovers the key to the blue trunk, which was always locked. This key unlocks the mystery of Armande’s early life, and Lise decides to write The Secret of the Blue Trunk.
Lise Dion is one of Quebec’s best-loved humorists. Over the years she has written countless scripts and appeared many times on television as a dramatic actress. The Secret of the Blue Trunk, a bestseller in Quebec, is her first book, and will be made into a movie.
Liedewy Hawke has won both the Canada Council Translation Prize and the John Glassco Translation Prize, and has been nominated four times for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation (French to English). She lives in Toronto.
…painfully frank and absorbing, and in the end, difficult to put down.
It is a terrible and tragic story that Dion has written, told in stark and straightforward words.
...touching and commendable...
It is pure, fast-paced narrative.
The secrets Dion unravelled are so extraordinary, Armande’s tale so poignant, it made me think about the Diary of Anne Frank. The Secret of the Blue Trunk is a stellar Canadian biography.
Dion’s reconstructed narrative offers a new (and specifically Quebecois) voice, one that is refreshingly direct and compulsively readable.