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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
They're Drowning Our Village
by Anna Rutgers van der Loeff
Age Range: 12+
The story is set in the French alpine village of Saint Sylvestre where
Jérôme Ronsard, affectionately known Pépé, his son-in-law and four grandchildren, Pierre, Jean Jacques, Francine and Léontine live. Pépé
has lived in the village all his life but now there is a new threat to their way of life – the village is to be sacrificed for a major hydro-electric project – the building of a massive dam to provide electricity to the whole of southeast France – which will mean it's total submersion underwater and the inhabitants relocated.
Pépé is sad and angry and unable to bear the thought of his beloved village being destroyed. His grandchildren suggest that they travel to Paris to petition the President. After all, France is a democracy so surely he will take notice of their concerns? And so Pépé and his family travel to the capital, experience the hassle and bustle of a big city to try and convince the authorities to change their mind, but to no avail; their pleas go unheeded. There is bitter resentment in Saint Sylvestre and Pépé and the inhabitants of the village form a resistance movement to fight their cause.
This interesting novel, written in 1958 by Dutch author Anna Rutgers van der Loeff, bestselling author of Avalanche, evolves around the saving of a village, the preservation of its history, way of life and the prevention of the heart being ripped out of a community. It is a battle between saving the past or embracing the future. It also shows a window on life in a small alpine community in 1950s France – the boys surprise at seeing a telephone for the first time or the different kinds of transport used in the big city – and is one of the enchanted aspects of reading a book published several decades ago. Rutgers van der Loeff avoids sentimentality but there is real pathos in the grandfather’s inability to accept the destruction of his village.
Illustrated with black and white line drawings and translated by Roy Edwards.
Other titles listed on the website by the author are: – Avalanche (1957) and Flight from the Polar Night (1974).