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Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation Paperback – June 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0312423599 ISBN-10: 0312423594 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312423594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312423599
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Oxford historian Gildea examines the gamut of French responses to the Nazi occupation of WWII, combining archival research with interviews of some 50 ordinary men and women who survived the war in the Loire Valley. These individuals range over the entire political, religious and social spectrum of France during the occupation. Gildea is especially interested in the creation of postwar narratives about the occupation-attempts to organize memories around such themes as the noble resistance hero confronting the brutal invader or the opposite narrative of pervasive collaboration by the French. Gildea says that after the liberation, right-wing Catholics, Gaullists, the displaced bureaucrats of Vichy, the few surviving Jews and the Communists all competed for control of the occupation's history. In fact, his research shows, events during the war were not as clear-cut as the postliberation myths suggest. Instead, rather than being all heroes or all collaborators, the French had to improvise, playing an intricate (and increasingly dangerous) double game of impressing the Germans as cooperative while carving out as much autonomy as possible as conditions changed. Overall, Gildea sees the French as creative and flexible, with interest groups such as industrial workers or farmers devising strategies and building networks for self-protection. The horizons of people's loyalties shrank from the nation as a whole to the factory, the village or the family. The strength of this book lies in the author's appreciation of the complexity of people's behavior under pressure. Delving behind the postwar stereotypes, Gildea (France Since 1945) reveals the myriad paths ordinary French citizens took to survive the occupation. 16 pages of photos, 5 maps not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Gildea has done a great service...A considerable achievement."--The New York Times

“[A] carefully researched and richly nuanced study."--The Boston Globe

"Subtle and humane."--The New Yorker

"A searching inquiry...Provocative--and timely."--Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"Stunning...In his nuanced and intricate work of historical reconstruction Gildea has grappled heroically with the ambiguity at the heart of history and in the heart of man."--The Atlantic Monthly

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Dunskus on August 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In September, 1939, France and Britain declared war on Germany because of the latter`s invasion of Poland. France manned its northern and eastern defenses, the Germans manned the „Westwall", occasional artillery rounds were fired to make sure that the guns were properly trained, but for more than six months, all was quiet on the western front. Then, in early May of the following year, the Germans attacked by way of Belgium, broke through the French lines and raced to the Channel coast, giving the French government barely enough time to transfer to Bordeaux, and encircling the British Expeditionary Force in the pocket of Dunkirk (from which the latter was able to escape with acceptable losses).
The French retreated in great haste and disorder, not only the army, but also the civilian population that, for decades, had been fed horror stories of what the Germans would do to them. Many just tried to get away as best they could, others, like units of the Gendarmerie, the Orléans fire brigade or other public services were ordered to do so. What with the general disorder that war brings about the result was often utter chaos, on the roads and in the towns. Eventually, France stopped fighting, and the Germans established themselves according to a pattern governed by military considerations: essentially in northern France and along the Atlantic coast, leaving the rest of the country unoccupied for the next two and a half years, until the Allied landing in North Africa forced them to secure their southern flank. Robert Gildea`s book is an account of daily life in the lower Loire valley during those difficult years.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By K. Coscino on June 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was so fragmented that it was difficult to pull the broader picture out of it. It lacked cohesion, presenting as separate chapters important details which could have been woven into a much more readable whole, a much better flow.
The general belief that the French collaborated with the Germans during the occupation was explored in various shades of grey but never really pinned down in black and white---I'm not sure if by the end of it, I was convinced one way or the other, although that little practical distinction was made between occupied and Vichy France did lend more overall credibility to the general collaboration idea. Endless stories with so much boring personal detail contrasted cooperation with defiance, plenty with privation, acceptance with imposition.
The French were definitely pictured as opportunists, opening their businesses, homes and bodies to avoid the potential of brutal plunder, and all the while covertly cheating their often gullible captors in every way they could. Being stationed in France and away from the harsh battlefront was the creme assignment, and while indulging themselves they often fell unwitting prey to almost anything the French could come up with. On the other hand, the Germans were presented as basically respectful of the French through common ancestry and religion, and honor for their heroic actions during WW1---although the military reasons for being there were never too far below the surface, despite the free-wheeling lifestyle they were experiencing in France.
The concluding chapter wound up being the most interesting part of the book, since it did manage to tie it all together fairly well, considering the amount of detail to work with. I think the book could probably have been half as long and much more appealing if Gildea could just have kept it on track rather than digressing into endless minutiae.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By robbieandrose on March 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
While I think that those that gave this book a negative review for being too narrow in scope and being very bogged down by excessive stats have a point but I believe this book is a noble undertaking and does prove its thesis which is that most French weren't in the Resistance, many French profited handsomely by the German presence and most Germans loved France and didn't want to spoil what was for them an idyllic place. Also, the author turns over alot of stones that most French probably wish were left alone like: the complicity of the Catholic Church, the alacrity with which the Surete turned over Jews especially foreign ones, and the total collaborationist behavior of many,many prominent people in the government.
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27 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I really hate to say that I did not enjoy reading a history book, since that is my favorite subject, but this work just did not hold my interest. The subject matter, life in occupied France, intrigued me very much, but the author's presentation left much to be desired, not to mention several errors which should have been caught by a good editor. The various topics, organized into separate chapters, occasionally overlapped and the same information was given twice. Through his concentration on a specific part of France, the author failed to give readers any "big picture" view of what was happening, which led to a very parochial approach, and was greatly non-informative to one who is a non-specialist reader. Also, the going was very tough, and I found myself dozing off many times when trying dutifully to slog through the morass of information provided. There's probably a very good story in this book somewhere, but I couldn't find it!
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