web site hit counter Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation

Availability: Ready to download

What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until – finally – renewal and retribution. Even in the darkest moments of Occupation, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why? It was women who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis – p What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until – finally – renewal and retribution. Even in the darkest moments of Occupation, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why? It was women who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis – perhaps selling them clothes or travelling alongside them on the metro, where a German soldier had priority over seats. By looking at collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes, as well as teachers and writers, including American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, fashion and jewellery designers – Anne Sebba shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and, in an atmosphere where sex became currency, often did whatever they needed to survive. Her fascinating cast includes both native Parisian women and those living in Paris temporarily: American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, and fashion and jewellery designers. Some like the heiress Béatrice Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like lesbian racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; only a handful, like Coco Chanel, retreated to the Ritz with a German lover. In enthralling detail Sebba explores the aftershock of the Second World War. How did women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Although politics lies at its heart, Les Parisiennes is the first in-depth account of the everyday lives of women and young girls in this most feminine of cities.


Compare

What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until – finally – renewal and retribution. Even in the darkest moments of Occupation, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why? It was women who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis – p What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until – finally – renewal and retribution. Even in the darkest moments of Occupation, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why? It was women who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis – perhaps selling them clothes or travelling alongside them on the metro, where a German soldier had priority over seats. By looking at collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes, as well as teachers and writers, including American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, fashion and jewellery designers – Anne Sebba shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and, in an atmosphere where sex became currency, often did whatever they needed to survive. Her fascinating cast includes both native Parisian women and those living in Paris temporarily: American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, and fashion and jewellery designers. Some like the heiress Béatrice Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like lesbian racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; only a handful, like Coco Chanel, retreated to the Ritz with a German lover. In enthralling detail Sebba explores the aftershock of the Second World War. How did women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Although politics lies at its heart, Les Parisiennes is the first in-depth account of the everyday lives of women and young girls in this most feminine of cities.

30 review for Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A wide range and sweeping view of the many different women, many well known, who were in Paris immediately before, during and after the Nazi occupation. Your enjoyment of this will depend on what you as the reader expect to get out of this book. It is certainly well researched, in fact the last 20% of the book is footnotes and sources. I found the huge amount of information as well as the large cast of people to be confusing and frustrating. Different people do sometimes overlap but often many c A wide range and sweeping view of the many different women, many well known, who were in Paris immediately before, during and after the Nazi occupation. Your enjoyment of this will depend on what you as the reader expect to get out of this book. It is certainly well researched, in fact the last 20% of the book is footnotes and sources. I found the huge amount of information as well as the large cast of people to be confusing and frustrating. Different people do sometimes overlap but often many chapters later. This was a horrific time and it was interesting to read how many women, from all walks of life, reacted to the Nazi's. Some fought, some hid their heads in the sand, some collided, many did what ever they could to survive. This part I loved but as I said the constant name changes, focuses often broke up the narrative if one could even call it that. It sometimes felt like just a recitation of names and facts. So in essence well researched, but frustrating nonetheless. ARC from netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Subtitled, “How the women of Paris lived, loved and died under Nazi Occupation,” this looks at the years 1939 – 1949 with the focus firmly on the female citizens of that great city. It begins in July 1939 with a society party, given by eighty one year old Elsie de Wolfe. The US born interior decorator, married to a retired UK diplomat, gave legendary parties; but this example demonstrates a sense of recklessness which prevailed at that time. Yet, by the autumn, both France and England would be a Subtitled, “How the women of Paris lived, loved and died under Nazi Occupation,” this looks at the years 1939 – 1949 with the focus firmly on the female citizens of that great city. It begins in July 1939 with a society party, given by eighty one year old Elsie de Wolfe. The US born interior decorator, married to a retired UK diplomat, gave legendary parties; but this example demonstrates a sense of recklessness which prevailed at that time. Yet, by the autumn, both France and England would be at war with Germany. From the very start of the war, the President of Haute Couture argued that the more elegant French women were, the more they would show those abroad that they did not fear the future. So, the author weaves a story of chic Parisian women and she introduces us to those from all walks of life. There is the author, Collette, who is uninterested in politics. Irene Nemirovsky, the Russian novelist. Actress Corinne Luchaire, the South African dancer, Sadie Rigal, a Comtesse, an Indian princess, a Scot married to a Frenchman, a French opera singer and many, many more. Many were extremely brave, many suffered terribly, others collaborated with the occupiers; whether by attempting to influence government policy, or by having love affairs with Germans. So, we go through 1940, when Paris was abandoned as many took a desperate, terrifying flight across France. However, when the German army arrived, they were often well-dressed, amiable and polite – at least at first and to most of the city’s inhabitants… People began to return, but gradually resistance groups emerged. There are arrests, denunciations, betrayal, fear, solidarity and every possible emotion through the war years. Always there is danger and hunger, but still Parisian women remade their dresses, put wooden soles on their shoes and pounced on parachute silk to make clothes. From Ravensbruck to the Ritz; through the early days of the war, to the accelerating frenzy of arrests and the vindictive fury that erupted after liberation; and the reconstruction of a city who refused to acknowledge those who returned from concentration camps and had to adjust to a new world, and a changed city, the author tells the story of all the subjects of this book with compassion and sympathy. We hear what happened to all of the women we met at the end of this book and this is a compelling and intelligent read. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Anderson

    THIS is how you write about history; broad and deep! Sebba's examination of the lives of French women (mostly focussed around Parisians) gives readers fascinating close-ups into the horrifying challenges they faced during the war. She does an incredible job with this - I constantly paused the audiobook to look up the avalanche of information the author sent my way. But even more, I appreciate the brilliant job Sebba did setting the lives of those women and the impossible choices they had to make THIS is how you write about history; broad and deep! Sebba's examination of the lives of French women (mostly focussed around Parisians) gives readers fascinating close-ups into the horrifying challenges they faced during the war. She does an incredible job with this - I constantly paused the audiobook to look up the avalanche of information the author sent my way. But even more, I appreciate the brilliant job Sebba did setting the lives of those women and the impossible choices they had to make within the larger context of WWII. Most authors choose one narrative thread or the other. Sebba reaches higher and triumphs. I'll be buying this one for family and friends. (I wish I could give this 4.5 stars. Maybe 4.75.*) *The only thing that keeps this from being a 5-star book for me is that the author uses vague attributions like "historians say" where I would very much like to see the names of those historians. But I am a hard-core history nerd in such matters. If you are less than a hard-core history nerd, then this is definitely a 5-star book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a sweeping tour of the choices and life-paths of women under the German Occupation of Paris during World 2. Some are the few heroines we recognize from books and film who helped hide Jews or joined a Resistance network. Others are emblematic courtesans, entertainers, and war profiteers who forged self-serving connections with the new masters, including ones who spied and informed on Resistance activities, facilitated the roundup of Jews for internment, or reaped profits from the appropri This is a sweeping tour of the choices and life-paths of women under the German Occupation of Paris during World 2. Some are the few heroines we recognize from books and film who helped hide Jews or joined a Resistance network. Others are emblematic courtesans, entertainers, and war profiteers who forged self-serving connections with the new masters, including ones who spied and informed on Resistance activities, facilitated the roundup of Jews for internment, or reaped profits from the appropriation of their businesses, homes, and treasures. Between these poles were the vast majority of Parisian women who took a wait-and-see attitude, just trying to get along and find enough income for food and shelter. So many figures and their stories that they tend to blur together, but the collective does provide a fascinating journalistic portrait of a city under duress and themes of resilience and diverging modes of adaptation to the Occupation in its successive phases, well illustrated, indexed, and footnoted. Just don’t expect a penetrating historical analysis of causes and effects For me it was an excellent companion read to Sebastian Faulks’ recent novel “Paris Echo”, whose lead character pursues the history of women in Paris during the German Occupation. Like that book, with its highlighting of a woman who betrays a Resistance leader and his network out of personal jealousy, Seba’s collage helped me take a less judgmental attitude of those who ended up engaging in varying degrees of collaboration. The Occupation evokes so many collective emotional reactions, here made real with details from so many stories. Such a pity when that gibbering madman Hitler got control of the jewel of Western Civilization a few short weeks after his armies breached the Maginot Line. Such a shame to see conquering brigades goose-stepping up the Champs de Elysee. Such travail in the mass freakout when many thousands fled in chaos to the countryside, and out of the country if possible. Dark days indeed to see iconic buildings taken for headquarters by their new German masters and bedecked with swastikas. But they were all oh so well-behaved at first. The city was not bombed. Hitler wanted its culture and factories to flourish, though for the benefit of the Third Reich’s image and economy at war. Many residents who initially fled returned to join the larger group of less well-off classes with no means to run. The majority were women, children, and the elderly because a half million young men were now POWs and thousands other men were already dead or headed to join de Gaulle’s nation in exile. Life went on with the new German customers of shops, hotels, night clubs, and brothels. The German officers were eager to experience elegant dining, dance and opera performances, and shop for jewelry, clothing, lingerie, and other quality goods not available in Germany. The tamed and appropriated city was a favorite of all sites in conquered lands for Axis soldiers to take their leave, and the city’s 200 brothels had no trouble keeping their businesses busy. As long as one could tolerate the laying off of most Jews in the diverse businesses, accommodation was acceptable by the majority and the law of the land under the puppet Vichy government. The women with the most anti-fascist rebellion in their hearts, those with communist leanings, were undercut by the German-Russian pact of 1940. But when the Vichy government went out of their way to pass anti-semitic laws and turn a blind eye to factories being manned with the slave labor of political prisoners and POWs, more recruits to Resistance activity were made. Just seeing fashion queens like Coco Chanel, actresses like Corrine Lachaire, and diverse aristocrat courtesans hobnobbing in luxurious splendor with German officers at the Folies Bergere, the Comedie-Francaise, the opera, and fancy restaurants was enough to turn the heart of many of lesser means at a hungry time. Sleeping with the enemy was one step, but doing so with such special benefits was a big affront, though still not enough to sway many toward revolt. Besides, the eventual policy of the Nazis to kill 100 French for every German killed by the Resistance was quite a deterrent. Signs of the stages toward the Final Solution were evident to some, but many could ignore them. On their own initiative and not ordered by Hitler, the Vichy authorities pursued the appropriation of the homes and businesses of many Jews. In collaboration with the Nazis, the goods and real estate of about 20,000 homes in Paris were seized and divvied out for profit. In July 1942 about 13,000 Jews were rounded up and held in filth and starvation at a bicycle racing stadium, the Velodrome d”Hiver, there to be sent to terrible detention facilities around Paris before eventual shipment to extermination camps like Auschwitz (only 800 returned; the total killed over the course of the war was around 65,000). Many people believed the story that this was just a deportation of foreign Jews. But subsequent sweeps took more and more prominent Jewish citizens thought to be immune due to their prominent roles in the economy (like the centuries-old banking clan of the Rothschilds). These actions, combined with progress of the Allies in defeating the Germans, moved more and more people to Resistance activities. Despite never having had the vote or even legally allowed to have a banking account, growing numbers contributed in small or moderate ways to helping Jews escape or hide or providing information or material support to aid those active in the Resistance. I like the example of brothel madams who hid subversives or Jews in their establishments. And the case of Edith Piaf, who drew complaints for aiding the Nazi propaganda efforts with performances at detention centers, but who used the group photos with the prisoners to create fake identity papers for many of them. I particularly loved the actions of an art archiver who was subverted by the Nazis to help with all the cataloging and distribution of stolen art treasures (Goering himself was long on the trough of that bonanza), but all the while she was keeping a secret record of the origin and disposition of each piece, and after the war used her records to good effect in recovering a lot of the art. I was also impressed with the heroism of Jenny Rousseau, a prisoner who one day refused to continue with forced labor in a munitions plant as against the Geneva Convention. The toughness of a such a choice at risk of one’s own life was revealed when we learn that the action spurred broad and brutal retribution against a whole pool of factory laborers. A similar tragic consequence applied to the work of the organization UGIF (Union Generale des Israelites de France) , which worked diligently to support the feeding and housing of orphans and refugees, but had their records of locations of Jews used for roundups by the Nazis. Among the set of women who were most active in the Resistance, we are led to appreciate the critical role of the British Special Operations Executive and its notable female agents who worked in secret to recruit and organize sympathetic French into subverting Nazi goals and to recover and extract downed airmen. Because use of women in active warfare violated the Geneva Convention, their role was kept secret by the Brits for a long time after the war. A special heroine for me is SOE controller Vera Atkins whose loyalty to her agents knew no bounds. Toward the end of the war, a blown network led to the capture of about 10 of her female operatives, and after the war’s end she worked ceaselessly to learn of their fates. She ended up interviewing many survivors and employees of various concentration camps. She pieced together how four of her former agents were shipped to a small concentration camp, drugged, and thrown alive into a furnace. She gathered that her star ageny, Vera Leigh, woke up and fought hard at the last and severely scratched the guard killing her. From witness statements and scars on the face of the guard, she was able to cinch the war crimes prosecution and execution of its commandant, a doctor, and one of the guards. Although execution of spies was not banned in the Geneva Accord, killing people without a trial did constitute a war crime. Aside from a few show trials, few collaborators were really punished after the war. Most of these were convicted under a new law which stripped their citizenship rights and eligibility for government jobs for a period of time. De Gaulle judged that the country needed to concentrate on recovery and did not pursue close investigations. Also, it was hard to judge people criminally for aiding the Nazis when collaboration was the national policy of the Vichy government. But throughout every community, the French made their own retributions against the women seen as guilty of “collaboration horizontale”. An estimated 20,000 women were subject to public head shaving, beatings, and other humiliation. Another estimate has it that by mid-1943, there were about 80,000 official claims for support from French women for children fathered by Germans in the occupation. The author urges readers to consider how many of these liaisons were rape or under duress, how many were from natural human attraction and affection, and how all pale in comparison to collaboration that truly aided and abetted Nazi horrors or served unwarranted profiteering at the expense of others. Overall, this was a worthwhile read to cover the spectrum of heroism, perfidy, and just getting by among the population of Parisian women trapped by the Occupation. The presentation was engaging and the marshalling of tons of research sources on so many themes quite amazing. Unfortunately, as its writing was 70 years after the end of the war, very few new interviews of survivors could contribute to the effort.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

    This is an amazing feat of research. The author gathers together the stories of a multitude of French women during WW2. There are probably at least twenty women here who merit a biography in their own right. Some working for the resistance, some collaborating with the Nazis, others trying to carry on as if nothing had changed. The problem I had with this book though is that no sooner had I become riveted by the story of one woman the narrative jumped to another. Probably a fully detailed account This is an amazing feat of research. The author gathers together the stories of a multitude of French women during WW2. There are probably at least twenty women here who merit a biography in their own right. Some working for the resistance, some collaborating with the Nazis, others trying to carry on as if nothing had changed. The problem I had with this book though is that no sooner had I become riveted by the story of one woman the narrative jumped to another. Probably a fully detailed account of one life can tell the story of a period and place more than snippets from loads – which is why people write novels. A footnote, Charles de Gaulles doesn’t come out of this very well. He refused to give any credit to any of the many many women who had constantly risked their lives in resistance work, though French women were finally given the right to vote at the end of the war.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Do we really need yet another book about Paris during the Second World War? I don’t know the answer to that question. We do need this book, however. In the past few years, it seems that the role of women in war is getting more attention and study, at least in popular culture. Hopefully, Hollywood will catch up and instead of the fictional Charlotte Grey we will have a lavish movie about the real Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who also we Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Do we really need yet another book about Paris during the Second World War? I don’t know the answer to that question. We do need this book, however. In the past few years, it seems that the role of women in war is getting more attention and study, at least in popular culture. Hopefully, Hollywood will catch up and instead of the fictional Charlotte Grey we will have a lavish movie about the real Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who also went by the name Hedgehog. Maybe instead of a one hour program on PBS Noor Khan will finally get her own Hollywood movie. Maybe in additional to Band of Brothers and The Pacific, HBO will finally have a series about women resistance fighters – and not the by now tried and tired cliché of the woman falling in love with the German officer she is suppose to be spying on. Don’t give me that. Give me Virginia Hall and Cuthbert. Please, please, someone do that. For those of you that don’t know, Cuthbert is a wooden leg. That’s not to say that such romances between German officers and French women didn’t happen. Sebba’s book does detail some of those relationships, though how many of them occurred between a woman resistance member and the man she was spying on, Sebba doesn’t say. (I do wonder why it is always that pairing in fiction at least). Les Parisiennes chronicles the lives of French women, in particular those women of Paris, during the Second World War. Despite the book’s title, some of the women mention therein is not in Paris, usually because of the War. Sebba counts for this quite nicely by counting Parisenne as a style or sense instead just a living situation. And she really isn’t wrong when you think about it. In many ways, Sebba’s book is important because it balances the women on the sidelines stories that seem to be so much of popular and easily accessible World War II history. It’s true that there are several books about the role of women in the British SOE, but it wasn’t until this year that WW II woman pilots (WASPS) could legally be buried at Arlington. Usually, there are a few general statements, books about women rescuers of Jewish civilians, and information about nurses. You really have to look to find books about women, and finding books in English about French resistance woman fighters is especially hard in some cases. So we do need books about this. In another way, Sebba’s book is important because it is not just resistance members that she focuses on. She looks at what drove women to take the steps they did. She also looks at the lives of women who resisted passively or just lived. It isn’t just one type of woman that makes up the story, but many. In some cases, Sebba offers what could be seen as a corrective. This is particularly true of Rose Valland, who kept track of art that the Nazis stole. Nothing against Cate Blanchett, but the character based on her in Monuments Men was just insulting –and it is difficult to find information about Valland in English. Sebba gives you some. She also mentions other quasi well known women, such as Vera Atkins, Noor Khan, and other SOE agents. She details Colette and Chanel as well. In the case of Chanel, one does want a bit more detail about the collaboration she might have/did does with the Nazis. The focus is women of all sort and types – Jewish, communist, mothers, fighters, you name it. In fact, if there is a weak point in the book, it is about the collaborators. In many cases, there seems too little about women who collaborators. This is not to say that she does not deal with it. Quite frankly, I would be willing to forgive the book more grievous sins simply for the section that deals with the head shaving of women upon liberation of Paris. Sebba looks at what drove people, mostly men, to do it as well as the reactions of those in Paris who saw it. It is a very detailed and compelling section. Sebba divides the book up into sections based upon time; therefore for each year of the war as well as the years of liberation and rebuilding. She follows some women throughout the timeline (and not everyone survives). At times, she travels far from Paris, for instance to Ravensbruck where many Parisian women were sent. At other times, she seems to reach a bit too far – the presence of Jacqueline Bouvier while showing how close to returning to normal Paris was feels a bit too forced. Yet, the timeline does allow her to show the use of culture – some fashion houses stayed home for instance – as well as the need to find food. She traces how women involved in some political movements, such as Communist groups, rose to lead protests about food shortages. She shows how women rising to take care of family during the absence of men, pushed society forward despite what both the Germans and Vichy government tried to do. Sebba’s book is the type of a book we need about war. It isn’t about the armies or the rescuers (or at least just the rescuers), it is about a group that during many wars is simply seen as something to possess.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    'C'est très compliqué' This is an utterly absorbing read as Sebba explores in minute and nuanced detail the lives of women during and after the Nazi Occupation of Paris. Organised in a year by year chronology, this moves from the early German charm offensive ('German soldiers: they were fantastic - tall, tanned, Wagnerian') to the gradual closing of the fist as, with the active collaboration of the Vichy government, Jews, résistants, Allied spies and airmen, were rounded up, imprisoned, deported, 'C'est très compliqué' This is an utterly absorbing read as Sebba explores in minute and nuanced detail the lives of women during and after the Nazi Occupation of Paris. Organised in a year by year chronology, this moves from the early German charm offensive ('German soldiers: they were fantastic - tall, tanned, Wagnerian') to the gradual closing of the fist as, with the active collaboration of the Vichy government, Jews, résistants, Allied spies and airmen, were rounded up, imprisoned, deported, interrogated, tortured and killed. What Sebba brings to the the story is an interest in what this meant for women: in 1940 when Paris fell to the Nazis, women had no vote, were not allowed to have bank accounts, were not supposed to have jobs, yet with most of the men either in the army or in prison or escaped overseas with de Gaulle's Free French, much of the burden of everyday living, of caring for children and the elderly, fell to women: 'Paris became a significantly feminized city, and the women had to negotiate on a daily basis with the male occupier'. There's a massive amount of material here and Sebba usually has it under control (though it slightly starts to get away from her in the post-war years): she has an unerring eye for telling moments and images: the lack of bird-song as 'all the birds had died when the city's large oil and gas tanks were set on fire as the German approached'; the appalling conditions of women being rounded up for deportation and transport to the camps: 'women who has their periods were walking around with blood pouring down their legs'. She's also acute on the politics of what happened after the Liberation of Paris: the incomprehension with which returning camp prisoners were met, the retaliations for 'collaboration', especially the female crime of collaboration horizontale or sleeping with the enemy. I could go on but really, this is a book which deserves to be read for itself. Sebba is alive to the nuances and complexities of the time, and while she strives to remain non-judgmental, is also clear about the fact that everyone had moral choices to be made. I would particularly cite this as a book which would be a perfect companion to Simone de Beauvoir's Les Mandarins or in English The Mandarins, a novel which opens with the Liberation and which also explores questions of guilt, collaboration, expediency and reparation in the postwar years from someone who lived through them. Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley

  8. 4 out of 5

    ❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀

    My only complaint about this book is that it could have been better organized. Sebba tells the stories of so many people, one right after the other, often switching to a new person with each paragraph, it's hard to keep track of them all. But the writing is very good and the stories are so compelling it hardly matters. An excellent, well researched book for those who want to know what life was like for women living in Paris during the German occupation of World War II. My only complaint about this book is that it could have been better organized. Sebba tells the stories of so many people, one right after the other, often switching to a new person with each paragraph, it's hard to keep track of them all. But the writing is very good and the stories are so compelling it hardly matters. An excellent, well researched book for those who want to know what life was like for women living in Paris during the German occupation of World War II.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Notaro

    If I could give this book ten stars, I would. What a carefully woven picture of history we are given with Anne Sebba's remarkable book. The research is meticulous and precise; the lives we are drawn into are each a portrait in themselves. I started 2016 with Ravensbruck, and that was another magnificent book of documentation. This book stands aside that one and also A Train in Winter. Essential reading to understand what happened in France during the Occupation. Do not let yourself get sidetrack If I could give this book ten stars, I would. What a carefully woven picture of history we are given with Anne Sebba's remarkable book. The research is meticulous and precise; the lives we are drawn into are each a portrait in themselves. I started 2016 with Ravensbruck, and that was another magnificent book of documentation. This book stands aside that one and also A Train in Winter. Essential reading to understand what happened in France during the Occupation. Do not let yourself get sidetracked by trying to keep track of the historical figures in the book, just read along, and learn their stories. You'll defeat the purpose of the book if you don't just go with it. Wonderfully done. Wonderfully done. If you want a recap of Lilac Girls, go read Lilac Girls again. This book will require more from you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    As readers of my reviews will already know, books which focus on a very particular part of history - a short and defined time period, a distinct group of people, or a specific geographic location - are ones which I continue to seek out.  Anne Sebba's Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s contains all three elements, and I therefore eagerly picked it up. In June 1940, German troops occupied Paris, changing the lives of all of the capital city's citizens in many As readers of my reviews will already know, books which focus on a very particular part of history - a short and defined time period, a distinct group of people, or a specific geographic location - are ones which I continue to seek out.  Anne Sebba's Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s contains all three elements, and I therefore eagerly picked it up. In June 1940, German troops occupied Paris, changing the lives of all of the capital city's citizens in many ways, dramatically or otherwise.  Rather than look at a specific group of women  - either those who collaborated with the Nazis, or those who chose too defy them - Sebba examines the 'moral grey area which all Parisiennes had to navigate in order to survive.'   In order to learn about her subjects, and what they went through during the Occupation, as well as afterwards, Sebba conducted 'scores' of interviews and read many firsthand accounts.  She successfully draws together testimonies of native Parisiennes and those visiting the city, for whatever reason, on a temporary basis: 'American women and Nazi wives; spies, mothers, mistresses, artists, fashion designers and aristocrats.'   The Times Literary Supplement hails her achievement 'richly intelligent...  Voices, belonging to women of all classes, ages and educational backgrounds, weep and sing through this extraordinary book.'  Author Edmund White notes that Sebba 'understands everything about the chic, loathsome collaborators and the Holocaust victims, and their stories are told in an irresistible narrative flood.'  Sarah Helm (whose wonderful book If This is a Woman I have also reviewed on Goodreads) praises Sebba for not offering 'an explanation as to why some women chose one course, others another, rightly letting their actions and compelling life stories speak for themselves.' In her prologue, Sebba recognises: 'Echoes of the past continually resonate in modern-day France, because what happened here during the 1940s has left scars of such depth that many have not yet healed.  There is still a fear among some that touching the scars may reopen them.'  She writes that her aim is to 'examine in these pages what factors weighed most heavily on women, causing them to respond in a particular way to the harsh and difficult circumstances in which they found themselves.'  Sebba goes on to say: 'I want the pages that follow to avoid black and white, good and evil, but instead to reveal constant moral ambiguity, like a kaleidoscope that can be turned in any number of ways to produce a different image.' Les Parisiennes is incredibly detailed, and impeccably researched.  A great deal of social history has been included, along with tiny details which have perhaps been overlooked by other researchers.  Along with the many women Sebba has chosen to include, she also writes about such things as the very exclusive air raid shelter set up at the Ritz in Paris, which was 'soon famous for its fur rugs and Hermès sleeping bags.'  Sebba transports her readers to the city, which, despite the dire lack of fresh food, and the scary presence of soldiers, is still largely recognisable in the twenty-first century. Sebba has included a very helpful 'cast' list of all of the women whom she writes about in Les Parisiennes.  These women are variously actresses, the wives of diplomats, students, secret agents, writers, models, and those in the resistance movement, amongst others.  She has assembled a huge range of voices, which enable her to build up a full and varied picture of what life in Occupied Paris was like.  Rather than simply end her account when the German troops leave, Sebba has chosen to write about two further periods: 'Liberation (1944-1946)', and 'Reconstruction (1947-1949)'.  Les Parisiennes is, in consequence of a great deal of research, a very personal collective history. Les Parisiennes has been incredibly well considered from start to finish.  The impartiality which Sebba gives each account works very well, and allows her to write about so many courageous, inspiring, and formidable women, all of whom did something to shape the city in the war years, and beyond.  The original evidence has been well pieced together, and the chronological structure, which seems perhaps obvious in such a book, serves it well.  Les Parisiennes is thorough and exact, whilst still remaining highly readable.  It is a triumph.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Admittedly I have read extensively, both non fiction ( or history) and fiction regarding the Nazi Occupation of Paris during WWII, but I have never read such a dramatic,well written and. phenomenally researched history/discourse on the lives of the women of France who resisted or collaborated, survived or were killed during the Occupation. Anne Sebba has put together the stories of the famous, infamous and the many women who are barely remembered from this period and illuminates the complexity o Admittedly I have read extensively, both non fiction ( or history) and fiction regarding the Nazi Occupation of Paris during WWII, but I have never read such a dramatic,well written and. phenomenally researched history/discourse on the lives of the women of France who resisted or collaborated, survived or were killed during the Occupation. Anne Sebba has put together the stories of the famous, infamous and the many women who are barely remembered from this period and illuminates the complexity of living with the enemy, the nightmare of the camps and the fear of the enemy within. In many cases Ms. Sebba has interviewed either the women themselves, their family members and friends or quotes from their writings and personal journals. This book is a triumph of (feminist) history and personal struggles. It dispels many misconceptions about the period and goes beyond the years of the Occupation to discuss, in great detail, the aftermath of the Liberation, the politics of reconstruction and what life was like for surviving deportees when they returned to Paris. The story of these women is incredibly moving and a must read for anyone who cares to understand womens place in history during this period. I was fortunate to receive this in ARC form. Look for it to be available in October 2016

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Les Parisiennes is a fascinating book which seeks to overturn many of the gender-based assumptions made about Second World War Paris. Sebba's detailed research is obvious on every page as she collates and recounts the experiences of hundreds of women representing all walks of life and many of the nationalities resident in the city at the time. What she establishes is that there is no clear definition which can be applied to 'all' or even 'mos See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Les Parisiennes is a fascinating book which seeks to overturn many of the gender-based assumptions made about Second World War Paris. Sebba's detailed research is obvious on every page as she collates and recounts the experiences of hundreds of women representing all walks of life and many of the nationalities resident in the city at the time. What she establishes is that there is no clear definition which can be applied to 'all' or even 'most' Parisian women, and that the traditional view of the men resisting while the women collaborated is positively absurd! The only downside of Les Parisiennes for me is the sheer density of information. So many voices clamour to be heard that I initially found it quite difficult to concentrate on their stories. I had to consciously readjust my reading style from my usual devouring-of-fiction mindset to more of an idea of studying. That said though, this is certainly not a dry history tome! Sebba follows the progression of the war through the years and shows how, as the situation grew more desperate for everyone, women devised and discovered a myriad of ways to cope and survive. What I hadn't previously understood was what a male vacuum there was in 1940s France, particularly in Paris. Tens of thousands of French men were taken as prisoners of war and 'forced' to work in Germany for the duration. The left-behind women suddenly found themselves responsible for their households, many for the first time ever, under extreme conditions. Initially French law even forbade married women from entering paid employment. The double standards shown as the end result of this should be shocking, but I found them to actually be depressingly predictable. (I was reminded of How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee). A French man, for example, returning from years of working in a German munitions factory is considered a hero and can hold his head high because he obviously had no choice, but survived. Meanwhile his wife, now responsible for feeding three children and her aged mother-in-law, for example, manages to find and hold down a job as a waitress in a cafe that, unfortunately, counts German soldiers among its customers. She is publicly denounced and has her head shaved because she chose to collaborate. The definition of 'choice' is hardly fair and, to me at least, many of the repercussions seemed more like exercises in salvaging egos than genuinely punishing collaboration. Another aspect of Sebba's research which particularly interested me was the idea of maintaining Frenchness, even under occupation. If anything, the French cultural identity seemed even stronger at the end of the war than at the beginning despite the Germans' best efforts to confiscate art, prioritise German music and move the couture industry to Berlin. I loved seeing the lengths to which Parisian women went to preserve their sense of dignity and to out-chic everyone else - especially the female German soldiers and ancillaries in their comparatively drab uniforms. From the upper classes taking their fur coats to be retailored into the latest styles, to shop girls perfectly the art of the kohl pencil stocking seam, their determination and energy is still inspiring. I am grateful to Anne Sebba for exhaustively researching and then writing Les Parisiennes. The book gives a very different overall perspective on an era which I thought I knew a lot about, but there was plenty more for me to learn here. I hadn't really considered to what extent women's voices were missing. Whether it is women running resistance safe houses, concierges hiding Jews or stealing their silverware, or famous names such as Coco Chanel, Violette Morris and Edith Piaf drawing their own lines in the sand, all together they provide a thought-provoking insight into this city in wartime.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Oliver

    The lives lived by french women during the Nazi occupation of WW2, and wow, what lives they lived! This book covers the stories of collaborators, those who collaborated in a big way and those who did so in a much smaller way, resistors and victims. Paris had the whole gamut. A fascinating read for anyone interested in this period, the book highlights the life of the times, as lived by the women of the times. Incredibly brave women, sad women and greedy women are all portrayed vividly, the book d The lives lived by french women during the Nazi occupation of WW2, and wow, what lives they lived! This book covers the stories of collaborators, those who collaborated in a big way and those who did so in a much smaller way, resistors and victims. Paris had the whole gamut. A fascinating read for anyone interested in this period, the book highlights the life of the times, as lived by the women of the times. Incredibly brave women, sad women and greedy women are all portrayed vividly, the book draws on accounts written during the period. What would you do in this situation? It is easy with hindsight to condemn, but put into this life would you be brave enough to resist? Or would you, like millions did, find a way to live alongside the occupiers? In the aftermath of the war, the book goes on to tell the tale of what happened next, and this makes very interesting reading, as people are brought to account for their actions. Raising big questions of whether everyone should be blamed for their actions, particularly when these women were practically left to fend for themselves amongst the enemy. The lives of the victims are portrayed vividly, and highlights the aftermath for them. An experience that no one could ever put aside. Highly recommended. I received this ebook via Netgalley.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    As this was an ARC from Bookbrowse the pictures which will be in the published edition were lacking and that is sad, for the captions of the empty spaces indicate that they will greatly enhance this story of the incredible women who lived through the German occupation of Paris and the rest of France during WW II. There are places where the story drags and others where the story is repetitious but overall it is a fascinating story. It begins in 1939 when the City becomes aware of the German threa As this was an ARC from Bookbrowse the pictures which will be in the published edition were lacking and that is sad, for the captions of the empty spaces indicate that they will greatly enhance this story of the incredible women who lived through the German occupation of Paris and the rest of France during WW II. There are places where the story drags and others where the story is repetitious but overall it is a fascinating story. It begins in 1939 when the City becomes aware of the German threat but during the lull when the Germans are gracious and cultured and polite. Soon things begin to change and the food shortages begin and Jews are rounded up and made to wear yellow stars, Jewish companies are aranized and their owners flee or to into hiding. Many French men have already gone to unoccupied France to fight in DeGualle's army, what few are left are gathered up and sent to work in Germany for the war effort. Left behind are the women and children, whom they need to protect and feed. The choices made by the women are unbelieveable--some resist, some depart and others collaborate--some even collaborate while also resisting. All of the stories are heart-breaking and over and over I asked myself, what would I do, would I be able to survive some of the horrors , how would I protect my child? Once liberation comes the story is far from over. All of the women who survived, no matter how, now had to face the future--for some a very short future, with death the result of trials that found them guilty of treason, or the result of illness and weakness resulting from years spent at the hands of brutal German imprisonment. Yet, others lived into their nineties and they, too, found their future shadowed by the years of the war and its aftermath. Perhaps the most impressive line in the book is its last:"It is not for the rest of us to judge but, with imagination, we can try to understand." ( BTW, Liz Taylor was British--maybe American later.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from Bookbrowse in return for a First Impressions review. Anne Sebba's history of the German occupation of Paris, seen through the eyes of its women, has much to recommend it. The book is extensively researched, using both primary and secondary sources, and covers the impact of the Paris Occupation by the Nazis from a variety of perspectives: the social and artistic elite, the fashion community, collaborators, Resistance participants, Jews, mother I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from Bookbrowse in return for a First Impressions review. Anne Sebba's history of the German occupation of Paris, seen through the eyes of its women, has much to recommend it. The book is extensively researched, using both primary and secondary sources, and covers the impact of the Paris Occupation by the Nazis from a variety of perspectives: the social and artistic elite, the fashion community, collaborators, Resistance participants, Jews, mothers - in addition to providing lots of contextual information. Their stories are occasionally familiar, appearing in some detail in a number of recent books of history and historical fiction (The Nightingale, The Lilac Girls, The Monuments Men, The Race for Paris, e.g.), but this is a more thorough catalog than those books provide. The cast of characters provided at the end of the book is an essential item, as so many women are discussed. In fact that strength is also a huge problem. The book is organized chronologically, with chapters named by year. A character first discussed in 1940 may not show up again until 1944 - so keeping a story line in mind (when there are nearly 100 women on the list and lots of men show up in this book, too) is nearly impossible. The material is just not well organized, and that makes the book very frustrating. The subject is fascinating but this presentation of it is just not very satisfying.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jan C

    I am of the opinion that this is a book that needs to be read and not listened to. I checked it out of the library on OverDrive three times and still had an hour left of listening. How long does an Epilogue need to be? This one was 1 1/2-2 hours worth of talking. I noticed it still had 4 hours left and the war was over. At any rate, I doubt that I will check it out again just to hear the last hour of the Epilogue, unless someone can tell me there is something fascinating or vital that I need to I am of the opinion that this is a book that needs to be read and not listened to. I checked it out of the library on OverDrive three times and still had an hour left of listening. How long does an Epilogue need to be? This one was 1 1/2-2 hours worth of talking. I noticed it still had 4 hours left and the war was over. At any rate, I doubt that I will check it out again just to hear the last hour of the Epilogue, unless someone can tell me there is something fascinating or vital that I need to know in that last hour. Parts of it were very interesting. Others were just dreck. But I think I would go for print version for this title. Maybe it needed a different reader.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cassie Nelson

    This book was extremely well researched. It feels that no detail was left unused. The book has a large cast of characters that makes the read intriguing as well as frustrating. It is very difficult to keep all of the characters straight and at times I had to put the book down because I was frustrated with confusion. I think that this book would work excellent in a women's studies or world history class in college. I think the best way to utilize this book would be to dissect each character and w This book was extremely well researched. It feels that no detail was left unused. The book has a large cast of characters that makes the read intriguing as well as frustrating. It is very difficult to keep all of the characters straight and at times I had to put the book down because I was frustrated with confusion. I think that this book would work excellent in a women's studies or world history class in college. I think the best way to utilize this book would be to dissect each character and which pages their story is told. This way, I feel, would cut down on confusion and there would be a greater understanding of each individual character! The book has an exquisite bibliography with both primary and secondary sources that allows readers a true first-hand look at life for women during Nazi Occupation! I received an advanced copy from St. Martins Press via Library Thing in exchange for my honest opinion!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Ellis

    Beautifully written history of the courage of the women of Paris in the days leading up to WW2 and following through the days of the Marshall Plan. The majority of books I'm personally familiar with focus on one particular aspect of wartime France, such as the resistance, victims of the Nazis such as the Jews and other political/religious groups, or the "regular" people just trying to survive. This book combines every aspect of life in Paris and surrounding areas of France, bringing to life the Beautifully written history of the courage of the women of Paris in the days leading up to WW2 and following through the days of the Marshall Plan. The majority of books I'm personally familiar with focus on one particular aspect of wartime France, such as the resistance, victims of the Nazis such as the Jews and other political/religious groups, or the "regular" people just trying to survive. This book combines every aspect of life in Paris and surrounding areas of France, bringing to life the terror and insecurity of life under Nazi subjugation, as well as the tremendous courage of those who fought it with or without recognition. The focus is on the culture of the city, couture, art, music, etc., and how the women of the city struggled to keep it alive. It's an excellent and very moving book, highly recommended to anyone who wonders how a woman could survive enemy occupation of her country.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Krisette Spangler

    I gave the book 4 stars, because I learned so much about the German Occupation of France during WWII. There are so many fronts to that war, and the suffering is horrible at almost every angle. The French were no exception, and it was fascinating to read about the different ways women worked to resist the German occupation of their country. It was horrific to read of their treatment in German prisoner of war camps. It never ceases to astonish me what took place in those horrible camps. The book i I gave the book 4 stars, because I learned so much about the German Occupation of France during WWII. There are so many fronts to that war, and the suffering is horrible at almost every angle. The French were no exception, and it was fascinating to read about the different ways women worked to resist the German occupation of their country. It was horrific to read of their treatment in German prisoner of war camps. It never ceases to astonish me what took place in those horrible camps. The book is well worth reading, but I would give it 2 stars for trying to do too much. The book tries to cover too many women, so it is often confusing and difficult to follow. The author would have done better to cover fewer women and make her story more cohesive.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Anne Sebba's meticulous research into the lives of Parisian women during WWII is truly remarkable and an epic achievement. It's wonderful that so many stories of those "behind the lines" are now being told. Unfortunately, there are so many characters that there seems to be no cohesion to the story. It doesn't work well to tell their stories in a chronological fashion. It might have worked better to do a series of short sketches. There's a great deal of emphasis on the fashion and cultural worlds Anne Sebba's meticulous research into the lives of Parisian women during WWII is truly remarkable and an epic achievement. It's wonderful that so many stories of those "behind the lines" are now being told. Unfortunately, there are so many characters that there seems to be no cohesion to the story. It doesn't work well to tell their stories in a chronological fashion. It might have worked better to do a series of short sketches. There's a great deal of emphasis on the fashion and cultural worlds which seems somewhat non-essential to the story. While I found the book difficult to read, it's a worthwhile effort for the stories of these women to finally be told.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Meticulously researched and written in an accessible and lively style, this exploration of the lives of women in Paris during the Second World War is both compelling and informative. Covering a wide range of women, from the humble to the “big names” such as Chanel, the author approaches what is essentially a very emotive subject non-judgementally and with balance and fairness.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    repetitive and disjointed. DNF

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    A well researched history of Parisian women's experiences before, during and after the Second World War. Sebba emphasizes the difficult choices that individual women made in occupied Paris as well as the evolution of women's roles in French society as a result of the war. In the 1930s, French women did not have the vote, were barred from certain professions and often did not have access to bank accounts. In common with many other European countries, the war transformed women's lives and equal ri A well researched history of Parisian women's experiences before, during and after the Second World War. Sebba emphasizes the difficult choices that individual women made in occupied Paris as well as the evolution of women's roles in French society as a result of the war. In the 1930s, French women did not have the vote, were barred from certain professions and often did not have access to bank accounts. In common with many other European countries, the war transformed women's lives and equal rights were enshrined in law by the late 1940s. There is also a strong focus on female support networks both within Paris and in concentration camps. Sebba structures the book chronologically and therefore moves quickly between different themes and life stories. A thematic structure or a series of short biographies might have brought together the wide range of fascinating historical details in a more cohesive fashion. Overall, however, Les Parisiennes provides a vivid account of women's lives in wartime Paris, capturing the atmosphere of occupation then liberation.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    So many stories and histories packed into this book! This book may need to be read twice to absorb it all. I did not really know about much about the resistance and didn’t even think about women’s roles. Shame on me… As with any war, I now realize that it is the women who so much falls on. And in this case, the war was fought right at home. The sacrifices and choices made were questionable, but under the circumstances what could women do? Thank heavens so many kept diaries. This book starts at t So many stories and histories packed into this book! This book may need to be read twice to absorb it all. I did not really know about much about the resistance and didn’t even think about women’s roles. Shame on me… As with any war, I now realize that it is the women who so much falls on. And in this case, the war was fought right at home. The sacrifices and choices made were questionable, but under the circumstances what could women do? Thank heavens so many kept diaries. This book starts at the beginning of the war, to the end a little afterwards. I had read “Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw”, which added to my appreciation of this book. The family was mentioned in this book. I’d recommend reading that book as well if you are interested in the resistance.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Chliaras

    Such a tragic story (or many stories) ! I found this book when I wanted to do my research on some women heroines during World War II. I wanted to create a dance video about them and I found amazing stories from all over the world. One of them was about the "tondues" referred in the 7th chapter of the book. You can see our work here: https://youtu.be/Eq4eIm4FaIg The book was detailed not only for "Les Parisiennes" and French fashion, but also for all the events surrounding them. I studied it thorough Such a tragic story (or many stories) ! I found this book when I wanted to do my research on some women heroines during World War II. I wanted to create a dance video about them and I found amazing stories from all over the world. One of them was about the "tondues" referred in the 7th chapter of the book. You can see our work here: https://youtu.be/Eq4eIm4FaIg The book was detailed not only for "Les Parisiennes" and French fashion, but also for all the events surrounding them. I studied it thoroughly and I guess that when I read it again, I will be equally emotional, stunned and sensitized by all the women who sacrificed their lives to resist or to save their families.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    I have made it my personal mission to read as many holocaust survivor stories and other wwii stories in my lifetime. I’ve been reading them for around 9 years. This one had a flare of fun innit for me, as I love fashion. Therefore, neat to hear about how it was an important aspect of overall living in Paris at the time. I actually listened to this book on Libby app. But, I’m going to buy it or see if I can get it at the library due to all the other books mentioned in the stories.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I wanted to love this book, but I found the writing to be dry and the large number of characters hard to keep straight. I've only gotten half way through Part One so far and hope that my opinion will change next time I pick it up. For now I'm putting it back on my shelf in order to move onto something else on my list. I wanted to love this book, but I found the writing to be dry and the large number of characters hard to keep straight. I've only gotten half way through Part One so far and hope that my opinion will change next time I pick it up. For now I'm putting it back on my shelf in order to move onto something else on my list.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bronwyn

    A lot of information; will need another read to really take in everything.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pj

    Inevitably in a book that offers snapshots of so many women there are going to be a few who fascinate you more than others. What was often surprising was the naivety of some women, like the Jewish woman who believed herself immune to the deportations because she belonged to a well-connected riding club. Also fascinating were the women who collaborated with the Nazis, albeit often in a spirit of self-serving compromise rather than zealous adhesion to Nazi policy. Also fascinating was how fashion Inevitably in a book that offers snapshots of so many women there are going to be a few who fascinate you more than others. What was often surprising was the naivety of some women, like the Jewish woman who believed herself immune to the deportations because she belonged to a well-connected riding club. Also fascinating were the women who collaborated with the Nazis, albeit often in a spirit of self-serving compromise rather than zealous adhesion to Nazi policy. Also fascinating was how fashion continued to be a force, even while many people were starving. All in all a very enlightening depiction of how the war affected a variety of French women from all different backgrounds and religions.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    I was looking forward to reading this book. I read Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” which piqued my interest in how the women in France survived Nazi occupation. I also read CW Gortner’s “Mademoiselle Chanel” which had a lot of information on how she and others like her survived. This nonfiction book was well researched for the period 1939 – 1949. The majority of the book addresses the lives of “the rich and the famous” and, I admit, I scanned much of those sections. I was more interested in t I was looking forward to reading this book. I read Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” which piqued my interest in how the women in France survived Nazi occupation. I also read CW Gortner’s “Mademoiselle Chanel” which had a lot of information on how she and others like her survived. This nonfiction book was well researched for the period 1939 – 1949. The majority of the book addresses the lives of “the rich and the famous” and, I admit, I scanned much of those sections. I was more interested in the everyday people, people like me. I also was not impressed with how much fashion – and entertainment to some degree - continued to be of prime importance during that time. Seems a bit shallow to me when people were just trying to survive. Life did change for everyone, especially the women. Most of the men went away to war, leaving the women behind to carry on with live the best way they could. And it was indeed a difficult time. Food and other necessities of life were in very short supply. The Germans were the only ones that could afford food – or they just took it. Women faced daily humiliation as they had to queue for hours and then beg (and pay) for the few rations that were available. Tremendous efforts were made to hide works of art – those in galleries and private Jewish collections. Part of Hitler’s plan was the intention to destroy any sense of belonging by depriving Jews of what they owned. He planned to create his own art gallery. The British were using women in combatant activities, although it was forbidden by the Geneva Convention. Thus, these women had no protection if they were captured. History has failed to note that many women were among those deported. When the war was over people who survived were suspected of being collaborators with the Germans. Jews, political prisoners, and prisoners of war recently liberated from camps and prisons, poured into the city – a city in no way ready to accommodate them. Many returned with serious medical issues that Paris was ill prepared to deal with. Perhaps most devastating was that many returned to find that everything they had owned had been taken. In an effort to try to return to “normal”, women were encouraged to “return to a time of innocence and femininity, to stop making decisions, stop balancing cheque books, stop being aggressively punctual.” This met with mixed responses. I liked the discussion of what it takes to be a hero. I think I agree with this statement in the book: “Heroism isn’t a matter of choice, but of reflex. It’s a property of the central nervous system, not the higher brain.” Heroes do not think; they act. This is a book well worth reading, even though it does bog down at times. More and more people are now finally talking about what really happened during the Nazi Occupation. For a long time no one wanted to hear about it so the survivors kept quiet. Now their stories are being told – and heard. I received an advance copy from St. Martin’s Press vis BookBrowse in return of an honest review.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.