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Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris Paperback – June 12, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An academic history with a pulpy noir heart."--"Publishers Weekly"

"Grittily cinematic."--"Vogue"

"Maza explains brilliantly how and why Violette's story--or a culturally acceptable version of her story--grew from being a mere fait divers, or miscellaneous news item, into a nationally staged drama that bound France in schadenfreude-laced fascination near the end of the turbulent and divisive Third Republic. Combining a neatly suspenseful account of Violette's crime and its consequences with a richly layered cultural history . . . she skillfully analyzes Violette's transformation from wretched schoolgirl to cultural icon."--Judith Warner"New York Times Book Review" (06/03/2011)

"Grittily cinematic."--Megan O'Grady"Vogue" (04/07/2011)

"The story itself is so fascinating that general readers interested in crime and mystery will be enthralled."--Marie Marmo Mullaney"Library Journal" (04/01/2011)

"Excellent. . . . Maza gorgeously weaves together social history, crime culture, gender theory, and thorough research."--Oline Eaton"New Books In Biography" (10/15/2012)

"[An] excellent new biography. . . . Maza gorgeously weaves together social history, crime culture, gender theory, and thorough research."--Oline Eaton"New Books In Biography" (10/15/2012)

"A true-life detective tale set not amid the glamour and romance of a well-touristed Paris but in a secret city that runs thick with the lives of the forgotten and the abandoned."--David Kennedy Jones"T: The New York Times Style Magazine" (06/15/2011)

"Compelling. . . . A brief review cannot convey the elegance and persuasiveness of Maza's version of this famous case."--Robert A. Nye, Oregon State University"Journal Of Modern History" (03/01/2013)

"Grittily cinematic."--Megan O Grady"Vogue" (04/07/2011)"

"The trial captivated France, and readers will be just as captivated by Maza's study of Noziere and the culture of interwar France."--Eric Feil"Dan s Hamptons" (06/09/2011)"

Maza explains brilliantly how and why Violette s story or a culturally acceptable version of her story grew from being a mere fait divers, or miscellaneous news item, into a nationally staged drama that bound France in schadenfreude-laced fascination near the end of the turbulent and divisive Third Republic. Combining a neatly suspenseful account of Violette s crime and its consequences with a richly layered cultural history . . . she skillfully analyzes Violette s transformation from wretched schoolgirl to cultural icon. --Judith Warner"New York Times Book Review" (06/03/2011)"

Grittily cinematic. --Megan O Grady"Vogue" (04/07/2011)"

The story itself is so fascinating that general readers interested in crime and mystery will be enthralled. --Marie Marmo Mullaney"Library Journal" (04/01/2011)"

Excellent. . . . Maza gorgeously weaves together social history, crime culture, gender theory, and thorough research. --Oline Eaton"New Books In Biography" (10/15/2012)"

[An] excellent new biography. . . . Maza gorgeously weaves together social history, crime culture, gender theory, and thorough research. --Oline Eaton"New Books In Biography" (10/15/2012)"

A true-life detective tale set not amid the glamour and romance of a well-touristed Paris but in a secret city that runs thick with the lives of the forgotten and the abandoned. --David Kennedy Jones"T: The New York Times Style Magazine" (06/15/2011)"

Compelling. . . . A brief review cannot convey the elegance and persuasiveness of Maza s version of this famous case. --Robert A. Nye, Oregon State University"Journal Of Modern History" (03/01/2013)"

A well-researched and thoroughly readable account of French culture as revealed in a generally forgotten murder case. --Jaime O'Neill"Chico News & Review" (05/12/2011)"

The trial captivated France, and readers will be just as captivated by Maza s study of Noziere and the culture of interwar France. --Eric Feil"Dan s Hamptons" (06/09/2011)"

From the Inside Flap

"Sarah Maza has written a vivid, gripping and clear-eyed account of the celebrated Violette Nozière case, which captivated French society in the 1930s. A bold and imaginative story, Violette Nozière opens an unexpected and revealing window onto interwar Parisian life." — Colin Jones, author of Paris: Biography of a City

“Sarah Maza's absorbing new book on Violette Nozière--flapper, fantasist, and perpetrator of one of the most sordid and sensational French homicides of the 1930s—is a scholarly 'true crime' tale of the most intelligent sort. Why might a seemingly respectable little mademoiselle from a 'nice' bourgeois family want to poison her maman et papa at the breakfast table? Alongside her riveting account of the crime and its aftermath, Maza investigates the various pathologies—familial, social, economic, cultural, psychosexual—that may have figured in the mayhem. (At her trial Nozière claimed, among other things, that her father had sexually abused her for years.) The result is both a fascinating case history—Greek tragedy rewritten as seedy policier—and a chilling glimpse into the less salubrious aspects of French lower middle-class life between the wars.” — Terry Castle, author of The Professor

"One of those rare and sophisticated works that tells a gripping story while evoking a complex historical period. There exist very few cultural histories of the interwar years."—Carolyn Dean, author of Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust

“Sarah Maza's book tells an arresting story that deftly combines conventional social history with a subtle analysis of gender and culture. Using all the arts of the best storytellers, she is careful not to give too much away, and it is only with time and a remarkable conclusion that we realize that Violette Nozière is no ordinary tale.” — Ruth Harris, author of Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520272722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520272729
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James M. Rawley on October 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An absolutely wonderful book. The grisly murder story atmosphere is made less trashy by academic discussion of French culture (especially crime magazine culture) of the 1930s, and the academic discussion is made interesting by the grisly murder story atmosphere. The author has a nice journalistic style, too.

Violette Noziere led a sexy life, then at eighteen poisoned both her parents. She said her father had been sleeping with her for years. The author says we can't tell if that's true or not, but her behavior was consistent with having been sexually abused from the age of twelve: her school performance fell off and she began leading a wild life. Either way the case fascinated the press and got reams of coverage.

Upwardly mobile turns out to be not so romantic. The family scrimped and saved so that their daughter could lead a better life than theirs, perhaps even become a secretary instead of a housewife! Some of the press thought it was dreadful she could prefer having fun to working toward a good job like that. Others thought that even without the incest, the family pressure on her was near unbearable. As almost always in such cases, what Violette herself thought barely made the papers.

Other critics onsite have suggested the author is "left leaning" and "ultra-feminist." Nonsense. She averages an endnote per paragraph and stays strictly objective about both Fascist and Communist press coverage. She reveals amazingly interesting things about French culture of the time. For example, it had long been legal to be gay, but gays were nevertheless stereotyped and pilloried in the popular press -- which could talk more freely about their prejudices precisely because being gay was legal. Another example: half a dozen women were guillotined in the early 1940s, most of them for providing illegal abortions.

Highly recommended in spite of the Kindle price.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Violette Noziere, a young woman of eighteen, who was living with her parents in a two-room apartment in Paris, decided to poison her parents by giving them barbiturates to drink. Her father died; her mother survived. The motive? Well, this was the big and controversial point during her trial.
All this happened in 1933 in France and from that point on, she had become the most famous and infamous woman in her country and, as Prof. Maza writes,"certainly the most hated". Only the Dreyfus affair could compete with this judicial case, and which was responsible for drawing the French to read and discuss this double intended parricide in newspapers, magazines,or letters and essays. The obsession with this case has only diminished during the seventies of the previous century.
France of the 1920s and 1930s was characterized by many strikes, rallies of the right, paramilitary organizations and other less important events. For the French, the Noziere crime became what they called "an affair", a scandal which divided the public because of its complexity. Class divisions were eroding, the role of women was changing and Prof. Maza successfully recreates the atmosphere of those days not only on the political level, but also in
the sphere of the individual. Violette's crime and her trial captivated the attention of the French more than political or other social matters, precisely because this case had many elements which touched the lives of the masses. The case raised questions about those families that migrated to the city from the French countryside. It also raised the nature of life in modest families with one child and it showed clearly that the divisions between the classes were slowly disappearing.
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Format: Paperback
This book was very interesting as social history. In the first few chapters I learned a great deal about Paris in the early 20th century (specifically the 1920's and 1930's) that was fascinating, information not easily available elsewhere about middle class life and the ability to climb socially, as well as about family life and social change and the role of women.
The crime itself is interesting, and in a way the author tried to be fair about it, giving the points of view of people of different politics at the time (which in itself was interesting). However, after a while I felt that she did have something of a political agenda and bias which interfered with her being able to discuss it, and the trial, in a meaningful way. the trial comes across as unfair in this book because the judges are jury were all middle-class (white) males and the author talks a lot about their 'suppressing' the 'evidence' that Violette was sexually abused by her father, which she (Violette) claimed was a reason for the crime. However, it doesn't seem that it was unfair not to want to give a lot of attention to an alibi which smeared the victim of the crime (the dead father) and wasn't proven at all, in any sense (and in 1937 Violette herself retracted this and apologized for having said it). the author brings up evidence that fathers raped daughters in early twentieth century France and that it was a crime that was ignored and that the victims were not allowed to speak. Granted. But did this particular father rape this particular daughter? The evidence doesn't seem good at all --Violette was a horrible liar, she tested positive for syphilis which her father did not have, and her mother washed all her clothes and never noticed anything.
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