was born in Kiev
in 1903 into a
She emigrated to
began to write.
success with her
she was 26.
The Flies of
Autumn, Dogs and
English but we
were unable to
versions of any
of her other
Although she had converted to Catholicism in 1939 she was Jewish by descent. She was arrested by French police in July 1942 and died in Auschwitz a few weeks later. She was 39.
Her husband, Michel Epstein, was arrested by the French police a few months later in November 1942, and was sent straight to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Immediately after arresting Michel, the police went in search of their two children, Denise and Elisabeth (Babet), then aged five and ten, but Denise's school teacher hid her behind her bed and the two girls were able to flee in the care of their governess and family friend, Julie Dumot.
Before leaving, Denise put her mother's manuscript in her suitcase as a memento. They spent the rest of the war moving from place to place, staying one step ahead of the French police, who continued to hunt for them.
Many years passed before they could bring themselves to read their mother's notebooks and only then did the sisters realize that they were not the notes of a private diary, as they had assumed, but a novel that provided a vivid snapshot of occupied France.
This article was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the
April 2007 paperback release.
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