Tyres by Adam Thorpe with Juana Zufriategui

The narrative of Tyres is set against the tension of German-occupied France during the Second World War, where relationships are strained, little can be openly communicated and suspicion is rife.

The brutality of war suddenly intervenes in the middle of the story with the killing of the suspected members of the French Resistance movement (the Maquis) and the villagers forced to view the bodies, their ‘guts…literally looped and dripping almost to the floor’, before the hanging of the ringleader nicknamed Petit Ours from the village bridge.

Set against this is the gradually developing love affair between the young 17 year old lad learning to maintain vehicles in his father’s garage and the girl who cycles past each day. The young man’s narration leads the reader gradually to his final act of involvement with the Resistance against the Germans and its effects; ill-luck seems to be the cause of guilt, and the final revelation of the age of the narrator, 44, shows how long that guilt and fidelity has lasted.

In this story, Thorpe sets ordinariness such as working on cars, changing tyres, a developing relationship against extraordinariness: the Second World War and German occupation, to create a small poignant story of war.


  1. (p 396/397) Sum up his boyhood thoughts, opinions and feelings.

Raoul  was a child who`s father started a business the year of his birth.  Years later, Raoul started working on the business of his father as a mechanic. He always saw these as the body and the soul and he said that he is proud of his business. First of all he was scared of the hiss of the compressors, of the great blade that took off the rubber peeling it like an orange. He learnt to see a tyre  as sad when it chin lay flat on the ground. Every time he heard of a local accident, his hear bit faster. He was always, from maturity, bigger than he ever was, but he was never fat.

  1. What attitude does the father, Monsieur Andre Paulhan, have towards the Germans, the Resistance and to his son’s (Raoul) involvement in the war and resistance?

Monsieur André Paulhan and his son, Raoul, has a garage where they repaired French and German cars. They had to has a good attitude towards the Germans because if not his business would bankrupt and they would have bad conditions of life.

  1. Describe his first meeting and emotions with the young girl when Raoul was 14/15 in 1940s and three years later at 17/18. (P399/400)

I noticed her first as a very young girl , just coming into womanhood, when she arrived in the yard with a tyre in ribbons, and caught her ankle on the pedal, walking the bycle towards  me. She was nothing much to look at then, execpt for a mass of  beautiful, glossy black hair, but   she spoke in a very sweet, soft voice,and had a winning smile. She hardly look at me and (both being shy, I suppose) we exchange   only a few commonplaces.”  

 This quotation it is explaining the first meeting between Raoul and the young lady. When the lady was riding her bicycle, one of the tyres broke so she had to enter to the garage where she was about to meet Raoul.

  1. How do these lines reflect the Raoul’s feelings at the end of the story: “Someone    who, if suddenly no longer there, can leave a hole in your heart, and a feeling of doom    until the moment he or she reappears.”

As we can see these lines reflect a lot the feeling of Raoul at the end of the story, he didn’t continue his life when he lost Cecile, he didn’t fell in love again and he never recovered because his heart was broken and, as the lines say, he had a big hole in his heart. This is not a mature reaction because doing this, he was losing his life too, and Cecile would probably want him to move on, and do something for himself. So here it is really clear, that these lines are reflecting the end of the story.

5          p401 How involved in the Resistance does Raoul  think that the young girl and his   father are? What does the threat: “Try a nail or two” imply about the father?

Raoul thinks that the young girl is part of the Maquis, he thinks that she is working for the other side, for France. Raoul also believes that she has realised that his father is negotiating with the Germans. “‘Petit Ours’ she said, all of sudden. I felt renewed panic inside”. This is really bad for Raoul and his father because if the Resistance know that they are traitors, they will kill them. The quote “Try a nail or two”, as we said, implies a lot Raoul’s father, because, if the Resistance notices that they are collaborating with the German, by letting him use the garage, they will murder them. The Resistance is working against the Germans because of all they have done to their country.

  1. (p402) What does Raoul do to bring the girl closer to him? How does his father react?

¨This was about a month after the girl had stopped to thank me. I decided to do something clownish, to make her stop again…I saw the girl in the distance…to my relief, I have to say (nothing can be relied on except death and so forth). There was nobody else on the road. I stepped out into the middle with a bucket full of stones and earth and started to pour it into the pot-hole, the subject of our former exchange…She stopped. ¨You have no right to do that¨  

 This quotation is explaining how the boy wanted to bring her closer to him.  He put a bucket with stones and then he dropped the bucket full of stones into the road. Moreover, the girl said that he would be arrested because he was overstepping the road.

¨His face (no more nor less emaciated that it was before the war, just a little sharper) gleamed with sweat and grace. I smiled back innocently…He wiped his mouth and set the glass down more energetically than usual. ¨Wipe that bloody stupid grin off your face¨ he said ¨Or I will think you are up to something¨…He  must have felt cornered in some way. He wouldn’t have liked that.

In this quotation we can find how the father of Raoul feel about how his son bring the girl closer to him. He feel mad, ¨cornered¨, with anger…etc.

  1. Describe Andre’s feelings about religion and about the Petain government. P403 and  elsewhere.

Raoul’s father dislike Catholics also he thinks that the war was a personal attack on his business because he can not work and earn money without the Germans repairing their cars their. That means that he can not get out of his enemies. Also the narrator speaks about the Jews, he says that the Catholics never mind about the Jews that were taken away by the enemies.

Furthermore, in the story we can see that Raoul continue talking about Cecile Viala, the girl that he looked for years. He said he she never mention again Petit Ours, or anything related with the hide-class and the resistance, including the war too.

8          Finally the romance with Cecile Viala is in the open  with Raoul’s family p403/404    How would you describe their feelings for each other?

As we know, Raoul is very in love with Cecile, he loves her very much. He thinks that she is pleasant, pretty and clever. Raoul adores her because he had made his first promises with someone who loves.

Later on, Raoul proposed marriage to her. In this quote we can read about it.

¨ page 404 line three up to line six-teen¨

This quote is explaining where and how Roul proposed marriage to Cecile under the chestnut tree. Noticeably, she said ¨Yes¨

9.( p405)  What has prompted Raoul to sabotage the Gestapo officer’s inner tube?

One day, when Raoul was in the coffee a man came and said to him that he had to sabotage the German cars because the man knew that his father and him were repairing their cars. Later on, when a german came into the garage to be repair Raoul remembered what the man said to him. So he changed the inner tube for another old inner tube.

  1. What is the faint hope Raoul has for Cecile as she accepts the ride in the car?

Raoul´s faint hope was that Cecile was forced to go into the German car, so he wouldn’t be blame for Cecile’s death. The tyres were in a dangerous state so she was probably going to die.

11 . The story ends with a reluctant mood to shift with the times. Explain how this is true.

The story ends with a reluctant mood to shift with the times because the love of his life is taken from him. Raoul still loves Cecile and he can’t live without her. Also, he is alone in the world of war and the Germans have destroyed so much from his country. He loses all passion for the job he loved because of the accident of Cecile, we can see that business is much better for him at the beginning of the story. In addition, at the end of the story we can appreciate that he stays locked in the past, he continues to place flowers on the road for her and he doesn’t marry anymore, we can say that he destroyed his own life.