In the early 1940s in the Loiret region of France, townspeople shamefully collaborated with the Nazis to rip Jewish children away from their mothers, put them into concentration camps, and eventually send them to their deaths in Auschwitz's ovens. In this haunting novel, Kohler vastly increases the emotional impact by intertwining her account of these children with the story of narrator Deidre's corruption.
When Sorbonne student Deidre spends the summer of 1959 with Madame and Monsieur in their estate in Pithiviers, she discovers a diary in the attic kept by two small girls who describe being cruelly separated from Maman and their day-to-day existence in the bleak yet safe attic. In the meantime, Deidre falls under the spell of first Madame, who treats her as a confidant, and then Monsieur, who eventually takes her as a lover. But the decadent, aristocratic couple (and their servants) are both much more and much less than they appear to be.