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Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s Hardcover – 2012
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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.)
<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/3211847-katherine">View all my reviews</a>
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.