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"I received a letter a year ago from a woman who had been saved by the people of Le Chambon when she was a young girl."

Why did they use past-perfect here? Couldn't "was saved" work perfectly fine as well? With the use of "had been", it makes it seem like she had been saved BEFORE she became a young girl, but that's clearly not the case.

Could my question be explained because the sentence was using "past indirect discourse"? I read it in a grammar book. It's used when "you are reporting what someone said in the past, you should use the past perfect tense in the clause describing what was said:"

He told the TA that he had written the essay that week. (correct)
He told the TA that he wrote the essay that week. (incorrect)

Thanks a lot! =)
Comments  
The past perfect is frequently used as a flash-back device. That is, in the middle of telling a story (using the past tense), you want to mention something that happened before the time of the story itself.

I was walking down the street one day and a stranger approached me. Considering that < | < I had just been mugged the previous day in the same part of town, > | > I was apprehensive.

In the case of your example sentence, things get even more complicated, because the point of view changes to the time of what happened before the time of the main story. Once the point of view changes, the past tense now applies to a different time period than it did in the main clause. The use of a clause subordinate to the past perfect clause (i.e., the when clause) helps keep us focused on that time period.

I received a letter a year ago from a woman< | < who had been saved by the people of Le Chambon = |= when she was a young girl. > | > (The letter contained ... )

Another example:

I did very well on the final exam. That made me happy,
< | < because I had done poorly = |= when I took the mid-term.

CJ
<"I received a letter a year ago from a woman who (said/wrote/claimed that she) had been saved by the people of Le Chambon when she was a young girl.">

It's reported/indirect speech/writing with "said", or another reporting verb, and a pronoun omitted. Don't only focus on the isolated sentence to understand why the past perfect was used. Think about the rest of the letter.
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So there is a rule that states that when you quote reported speech, you must use past perfect!? Honestly, I still don't quite understand.
LunchboxSo there is a rule that states that when you quote reported speech, you must use past perfect!? Honestly, I still don't quite understand.
Have you read anything at all on reported speech? Backshifting is not obligatory if the meaning is clear.
You mean something like:

"He asked me if I had finished reading the newspaper"

The way "had finished" is used in this sentence makes sense to me, but not in the first sentence in my first post.
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LunchboxYou mean something like:

"He asked me if I had finished reading the newspaper"

The way "had finished" is used in this sentence makes sense to me, but not in the first sentence in my first post.
Think of it this way. The Gestapo arrested people in Le Chambon. They then executed many of those people.

The time of her being saved was either before the Gestapo arrests or before the excecutions - it's is difficult to know for sure as the sentence you gave says nothing on this. Either way, there was a past simple action (arrests/executions) and before that a past perfect action.(saved).

So a woman who had been saved (previous action) from arrest or execution (following action)

It's also resultative, as many uses of the perfect aspect are.

Wartime, or just after: I am one of those who has been saved.

Post-war/Now: I was one of those who had been saved.

Also used: I was one of those who was saved.
"I received a letter a year ago from a woman who had been saved by the people of Le Chambon when she was a young girl."

This is the only correct formulation (using the past perfect) and this ISN'T reported or indirect speech. It's just the history of the events, what happened first.

The only reason the author uses was after when is that this is a subordinate (see Swan, tense simplification: past perfect-> simple past). But one can use had been there too.