Régine Deforges's Le Diable en rit (translated as The Devil Is Still Laughing) is the third volume of her La Bicyclette bleue series which stretches to ten volumes, although this is probably as far as I'm going with it: not through disappointment or other dissatisfaction, but after almost 1200 pages all told I think I get the idea, and action-packed sagas aren't exactly my main interest in literature.
Nevertheless this is a fine book which is in no way less of an accomplishment than the previous two I've read. It continues the story of Léa Delmas during World War II, and like the second volume 101, avenue Henri-Martin, is much more violent than the first and with a much less important love interest.
The tense atmosphere of terror, suspicion, brutal murder and torture is continued here, with again the setting changing between rural France (mainly the area around Bordeaux) and central Paris. But some of the action takes place in Germany too, when France is liberated and the allied push into Nazi Germany finally destroys Hitler's regime.
Many characters lose their lives, perhaps the most notable of them all being Léa's uncle Adrien, the priest who loses his belief in God because of the atrocities he's seen in the war; he goes out with two resounding bangs: a bullet through the loathsome Nazi Maurice Fiaux's head, and one through his own tormented brain; but although people later learn of his suicide, no one knows that he killed Fiaux.
Léa's cousin Camille is killed by the Nazis quite earlier on, and much later her husband Laurent meets his death too; Léa's uncle Luc, a collabo, is one of those killed by the French seeking vengeance after the Germans leave; Otto, the lover of Françoise and father of her child, dies in battle in Germany; and Léa's old school-friend and former lover Mathias joins the Nazis in what seems like a suicide mission.
In the Belsen-Bergen prison camp in Germany Léa – while working for the Croix-Rouge – discovers Sarah, her Jewish friend who was tortured in Paris. She manages to save her by having her transported to England.
This book, along with the two preceding volumes in this series, represents a remarkable achievement. Although these are works of fiction, the background and many of the events are based on true facts that happened during World War II, and give powerful illustrations of the horrors of war.
My other Régine Deforges posts:
Régine Deforges's grave
Régine Deforges: La Bicyclette bleue
Régine Deforges: 101, avenue Henri-Martin