The Devil Laughs Again

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

At the heart of THE DEVIL LAUGHS AGAIN is Lea, whom the first two novels in this trilogy have followed from 1939 to the late stages of World War II. In the process, Lea has grown into a beautiful, strong, independent woman whose courage bolsters the courage of those around her.

Courage is needed, for danger is everywhere. It is 1944, and the Germans occupy most French cities; even in the nominally free countryside one constantly fears exposure by French collaborators. Starvation and disease, too, are ever-present possibilities. Lea’s inner strength is tested as she watches many dear friends and family members die horrible deaths. Through it all, the underground radio and newspapers--living characters in their own right--bring a message of cheer and hope, as well as coded signals to attack or retreat.

On the surface, this is a novel of pure action. It is much more than that, however: Deforges shows the profound moral dilemmas of the times--dilemmas that are also matters of life and death and therefore must be resolved in a split second. Thus, despite his Nazi collaboration and Lea’s consequent scorn, her childhood friend Mathias tries desperately to help her keep one step ahead of the Germans. He himself, and other French collaborators, receive compassionate treatment from the novelist, although she does not mince words about their complicity in Nazi atrocities.

In another instance of moral conflict, Lea’s Uncle Adrien, a Catholic priest who deplores killing, concludes that a leading French collaborator must be killed to save countless Free French lives. He volunteers for and carries out the assignment, but then commits suicide--a grievous sin for Catholics--after telling Lea he has lost his faith.

This deeply absorbing novel stands alone, but readers may enjoy the first two in the trilogy as well: THE BLUE BICYCLE and LEA.