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Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation Kindle Edition
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“A fascinating account of how the buildup to WWII, the war itself, and its aftermath marked the lives of Parisian women . . . A standout social history.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Sebba burrows into the lives of women in the City of Light during WWII to reveal their captivating and complicated stories . . . Sebba’s clear-eyed narrative concludes, correctly, that these women deserve understanding, not judgment.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Fascinating . . . Anna Sebba knows everything about Paris during the war and she relates in Les Parisiennes the end of all the whispered stories I’ve been hearing all my life. She understands everything about the chic, loathsome collaborators and the Holocaust victims, and their stories are told in an irresistible narrative flood.” ―Edmund White, bestselling author of Our Young Man
“Wonderfully researched, this is an important retelling of Les Annees Noires in Paris which puts women's stories, and the complications of their lives under Occupation, centre stage. Sebba reminds us that we should listen and put ourselves in their shoes, before leaping immediately to judgement, and backs this up with testimonies from many women whose voices have remained unheard.” ―Kate Mosse, Author of Labyrinth and Citadel
“Impressive . . . Sebba offers balance to the plethora of war histories featuring the roles of men.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The further readers delve into the book, the more they’ll become entranced. . . . Sebba’s work delivers an intriguing perspective of an overlooked group during a time when all were tested beyond their limits.” ―Library Journal
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About the Author
- Publication Date : October 18, 2016
- File Size : 23001 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 728 pages
- ASIN : B01DJ0Y0IK
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press (October 18, 2016)
- Language: : English
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #465,800 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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After the first 50 pages I literally had a headache and had to put the book down. If I had written this book I would have narrowed it down to 20 women and devoted whole chapters to their lives. You read about a woman and her trials for a couple of paragraphs and, without warning, another woman comes on the scene. The almost 400 page book hops back and forth to the point where you have to make a decision: do I want to finish this book or just put it in the book case.
At around page 200 I had a dreadful thought! Instead of showcasing the plight of the French Jews, she painted a picture that is right out of the Hitler Playbook! They owned everything. They had all the money. They ran all the top businesses, regardless of what they were. They owned all the mansions. They owned all the priceless artworks. The wives and daughters were spoiled with everything their hearts desired. They went to the finest private schools. They knew everyone in society world-wide worth knowing. The smart Jewish families saw the writing on the wall fairly early and left France for England and the US. They were spared the death camps. This woman's husband was Jewish. This man's wife was half-Jewish. This Jewish family considered themselves French first, Jewish second. Guess what? In Hitler's war it didn't matter. They were Jewish. Only one Rothschild actually perished in a camp. The others escaped.
Isn't this precisely what Hitler wrote about in his famous autobiography? They (Jews) owned everything in Germany, Austria, France etc. Non-Jews had an almost impossible chance of ever owning these businesses or go into competition with them. She did a great disservice in writing this book. She, unfortunately, fortified the Hitler myth that they ruled Europe through business, the arts, banking. By the end of the book, which felt like walking through five feet of tar, I was exhausted and deeply frustrated. I learned nothing from reading this book.
Where is the chapter on the women who dated German soldiers during the war and were held accountable at the end of the war? A few paragraphs about how some went to jail, others never regained their reputations or jobs. Someone should write a book about the women who befriended, dated, and had children with the German soldiers. It is reported there were thousands of French-German children born during the Occupation. That would be an interesting story. She did not concentrate on that aspect of the war.
There were the prerequisite tidbits about Coco Chanel and the Duchess of Windsor. All of which we have read a thousand times in other books. She must have spent a fortune hiring people to research this information for her. And, by all means, buy an English-French dictionary so you can translate all the numerous French sentences she does not bother to translate for the reader herself. She assumed everyone on earth speaks fluent French. Deeply disappointed in this book. It disappoints on many levels. I am giving it away at a book fair this month. Maybe someone else will enjoy it.
A thoroughly researched book. It gives a vivid account of what life was during the dark years of the German Occupation of France, with emphasis on the role of women. A must for the student of that period and anyone interested in history.
Very informative and well researched, e.g, 69,000 Jewish home or apartments confiscated by the Germans.
Although familiar with many of the individual women (Germaine Tillon, Genevieve de Gaulle, Jacqueline Pery d'Alincourt, Caroline Ferriday, Vera Leigh, Agnes Humbert, Nora Inayat Khan, Chalotte Toquette Jackson, etc.) cited in the book, it is a well-researched book that presents new insights. Sebba's description of the post-war period was poignant and disturbing, especially the poor treatment of the women who returned from Ravesbruck and camps, the lack of recognition for the sufferings and the contribution of women during the war, the lack of food experienced by so many, the fractured society and the aftermath of the war, ordinary French citizens trying to regroup and maintain dignity, trying to become whole again, trying to be France again.
It's a powerful book - detailed but worthwhile.
As it is, it was very hard for me to "get connected" to this book either by becoming invested in its characters or following the progress of the political social conditions of France and its people
A two star rating reflects more of an acknowledgement that it is extensively researched and well written, not that its content is presented in a way that this reader, at least, found engaging.
Top reviews from other countries
The book can seem a bit confusing because Ms Sebba performs a juggler's task of keeping a lot of different balls spinning in the air sequentially; incorporating so many names and different strands of their individual stories is not an easy thing to do, and I found myself constantly referring back to the index so I was able to follow the stories of various individuals . People drop in and out all the way through the history she's relating. This is something she handles very well and is undoubtedly the only way to write this type of book which draws in so many by name; heroes and anti-heroes and deals with what happened to who, when. She encompasses an enormous number of people from most if not all sides of the conflict. It's a feat to have constructed a narrative of this type. Ms Sebba gives us Paris with all it's charms - its fashions, its chic and vivid social whirl of aristocracy, artists and politics, contrasting that Parisian carousel against a backdrop of mounting deprivation, ever-present fear of betrayal, and death. She presents the female dilemma of trying to survive when the main breadwinner has been removed from the household and there are mouths to be fed and backs to be clothed; a city whose men have been forced to leave - to fight against or labour with the Germans. You see the curious blindness of the collaborators and the Nazis themselves who with later nostalgia recall their occupation of Paris as a wonderful period; enjoying themselves by indulging in the Parisian fleshpots and accessing the extravagant shopping available to few others. Seemingly entirely numb to the suffering they had imposed upon the French nation. You see Vichy supporters, blindly going about their business; defiantly going along with the status-quo in order to sustain the good life of food and wine, glamorous clothes and a high standard of living. This is set against the extraordinary heroism of and risks run by the Resistance who doggedly continued to undermine Vichy and the Nazis to the very last day of the conflict. The women of the Resistance acted at times, with cavalier defiance; hiding British airmen beneath the noses of Nazis, and guns beneath a baby lying in its pram; tucking military hardware into clothing and cycling along with grenades etc...
One other thing that struck me was how a country where betrayals with deadly consequences had been a fact of daily life, got itself back together after the war. I can't help thinking that the contrast between the rightful pride and glory of the Resistance and the eternal stain of the collaboration and the betrayals have left their traces in the nation's soul.
What I found most distressing were the individual stories of women in labour camps like Ravensbruick or Auschwitz for whom the reprieve of Liberation came barely a week or so too late. These women had struggled for so long to remain alive in conditions too awful to contemplate – forced to unload coal or dig rocks out of frozen ground with almost no clothes or food in sub-zero temperatures, tortured and mistreated. How could that small scrap of extra life not have been granted to them – when freedom lay such a little way ahead?
The war seems far distant now; and yet it still throws up the questions we don't want to know the answers to: how could so many have behaved with such cruelty? How could such evil have gained a grip on what was thought to be a civilised continent? And then comes the biggest question of all – would I have had the courage to stand against such things?