March 18, 2002 12:00 PM

By Ben Macintyre

Trapped behind enemy lines in 1914, a group of British soldiers lived among French villagers for almost two years before someone turned them in to the Germans. In 1999 Macintyre, a British journalist, met Hélène Dessenne, the then-83-year-old daughter of a local beauty and one of those men, Pvt. Robert Digby. Relying on Digby’s letters and Dessenne’s recollections, Macintyre stitched together this heartbreaking tale. Even more piercing than the mystery of who betrayed Digby (he was executed upon capture) are the descriptions of last century’s most savage war. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24)

Bottom Line: Love among the ruins

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