Winter 1953. Hortense Weber, a young single woman from Alsace who has taken up a post as a primary school teacher in the village of Equignies, gives birth to a little boy. At the maternity hospital she meets Robert Duvinage, a young hoodlum. Because she sees through him but doesn't report him to the police, and because she senses that the young woman is harbouring a secret, an affectionate but mistrustful relationship grows up between them.
Robert puts his criminal activities on hold for a while and takes a job as a chef in the bistrot-cum-grocery store belonging to the communist mayor of Erquignies while at the same time looking out for Hortense's interests, rather against her will. The war in Indochina is at its height and dividing the opinion of the local population and the Cold War is a daily reality... Dissension is exacerbated by the trial in Bordeaux of the Nazis who massacred the inhabitants of Oradour in 1944.
In Erquignies, people are as violently divided as in the rest of France: is the responsibility for a crime against humanity collective or individual? Perhaps on account of her origins, the fact that she shares a name with one of the accused or her status as a very young mother, fingers start to be pointed at Hortense...
Michel Quint publishes roughly one book every year, whether it be a novel, a children's book, a short story collection or a biography. His biggest success to date is Effroyables jardins, which has sold 486,000 copies and been adapted for the cinema.