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Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 18, 2016
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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
On That Woman
“A solid biography of the woman who became the King of England's excuse for abdicating his throne . . . depicts Wallis as a woman who sought power and privilege but never expected the damage she wrought or the wrath she engendered.” ―The New York Times
“That Woman goes a long way in explaining how a not-quite-divorced, not-quite-beautiful American bedazzled a king out of his kingdom.” ―Vogue
“Salacious and consuming, this well-researched biography will appeal to readers interested in British political and women's history.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Smart, eloquent, and unafraid to go beyond the myth of the duchess of Windsor.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Brought to brilliant light in this responsible, respectful biography.” ―Booklist on Jennie Churchill
“A rigorously objective book… Fascinating.” ―Financial Times on Mother Teresa
About the Author
ANNE SEBBA is a biographer, lecturer, and former Reuters foreign correspondent who has written several books and is a member of the Society of Authors Executive Committee. She lives in London.
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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.
I am admittedly a lousy book reviewer at times and my basic instincts tell me that I might not do this book justice or (worse yet) tell far too much in detail. I'll instead tell you what this book covers and why it was wrongly categorized to an extent.
This book covers the women of Paris during WWII. Included in it is the occupation of the city by the captors, the disturbance and limitations that the women came to know, often the separation from friends and family members, acts of bravery, and quite often acts that were prompted by the need to survive. Throughout the book known names and intermingled with unknown names and snippets of stories describe what was like for these women when the world was faced with uncertainty and an unknown future. Often these stories are mixed with topics such as seduction, prostitution, espionage, etc. and are pretty much what you'd expect if you have read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies evocative of that area.
What strikes me as different and really helpful in terms of understanding the general theme of this book is that the stories/vignettes told are broken down into eras such as the period leading up to invasion, occupation, victory where you see subtle differences and then extreme ones. The scarcity of basic commodities change as the war becomes more extreme. In this sense this book is as much a history of WWII as seen by Paris' citizens and the methods used to insure survival.
The great thing about this account of Parisienne women is a lot of this reads like a novel and is in its entirety compelling and very interesting and crammed with detail that takes on a life of its own.
I read this author's book about Wallis Warfield Simpson and loved it for its detail and accuracy and the way it was written. By the way, Wallis and the Duke of York make appearances early on this book which made me realize how they really were somewhat oblivious to the real danger lurking in Paris on the brink of full blown war. The Duke scurries off to have a peacock broach made for his Dutchess from a bag containing precious stones for his Wallis by a high end prominent designer.
This is a great read anywhere, but it's just perfect for the beach.
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Enjoy your books
I particularly liked WALLIS; which you tied the couple into this book,