Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Paris In July: "Les Parisiennes"

"Paris in July" has returned! This terrific blog event features posts from loads of bloggers related to food, movies, books, music, travel, photos, art -- you name it! Check Tamara's site HERE for links to other participants. I tend to read and watch a lot of WWII history. It seems to be a period in time that is repeating itself all too soon in many parts of the world, but notably the United States. While I have read wonderful novels on the resistance, I'm not so familiar with the "real deal." Enter "Les Parisiennes," a non-fiction tome by Anne Sebba, which is fascinating, well written and well worth your time.


The subtitle of the book is "How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died Under Nazi Occupation." And it delivers its promise.

"Les Parisiennes" follows women who were both resistantes and collaborators during the war, even some who tried to walk that center line -- not "really" collaborating but certainly not "resisting" the attentions of the German occupiers of Paris or what they might provide.

Although Sebba doesn't address it directly, it seems that an underlying theme is "what do you need to do to survive?" And, by extension, "What would you do in the situation."


In the book we meet women of incomparable bravery, those who would deliver explosives hidden under their shirts or beneath their baby in the pram; women who hid Allied soldiers and Jewish families; others who passed notes, messages and weapons. We also meet those sympathetic to the Vichy government, "friends" who sold out others.


The women in France weren't just the French. Sebba also looks at the women of the OSE, Britain's group of women who parachuted into the country, both for the purposes of spying and for assisting in the resistance.

Stories, many first person, tell of the round-ups from apartments and homes, the looting and confiscation of not only art but household goods from the Jewish homes, and the struggles for food during the occupation. They are harrowing but powerful, to see such tragedy -- and in some cases, survival.


The book follows a number of the political prisoners to Ravensbruck, the women's concentration camp where dreadful medical experiments were done on many of the prisoners. The chapters related to the camp are quite graphic -- and they should be. We must not forget.


 "Les Parisiennes" isn't your typical "summer reading." No carefree walks along the Seine, no picnics in the Tuileries. Yes, there is fashion (in fact, a good section of the book focuses on the Parisian fashion industry before and after the war). But by and large you won't turn the last page feeling cheery.

But you may well finish this well done book feeling hope -- that there were women who made a difference. And chances are, there will be women (and men) in the future who would do the same.


We must never forget them.

39 comments:

Joyful said...

It looks and sounds like a good book. I'll add it to my list. Have a great week Jeanie.

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like a wonderful book. Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

Iris Flavia said...

I think there are two things that are so "fascinating" about that era. Or three.

For one, and this is very, very "embarrassing": This little, nasty Austrian man was given the power right here, in Braunschweig. Here a very dumb man gave him German citizenship.
How dumb.
Then. That a simple soldier who never ever achieved anything was so charismatic he could make people follow him and his stupid, weird, sick ideas! How he gained the power over so many men! Yes, men, mostly.But I also read about women who ran into and with the cruelness.
And then, what your book is about. Sane, brave women who stood up and fought.

I feel bad being half German, but I can say: None of my family-members had to join this weirdo and his sickness.

And yes, it seems as if history repeats itself over and over again as if "we" are too dumb to learn.

I have to admit. I never went to Auschwitz, Birkenau.... I´d never be able to sleep again. I fail to understand how cruel people can be.
I read many a book on women and girls in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, by accident a weee bit of your foot dares to make it into the light - BOOM!

And yet. Also these girls and women did fight and some succeeded.
I think it´s... yes, what is it. Good... bad?
There are series on TV, years and years old, NAVI CIS, BLUE BLOODS (with yummy Tom Selleck) and they all feature the same problem of IS, wars due to different believes, why can´t we just have respect to one another?

Wouldn´t this be a good theme for July? August, September, always...

eileeninmd said...

Hello,

Such a sad and tragic part of history, Women can make a difference. I have read some of the women's stories. They were amazing and brave! Thanks for sharing. Happy July to you! Have a great day!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Sounds like an important book, Jeanie, and you are right that the narrative should not be sugar-coated. It needs to present the horrors accurately, otherwise it minimizes what happened. I am always deeply saddened by the fact that despite "Never again" we keep doing it with great regularity - think of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia. Yemen, Syria.....it never ends, and I don't believe it ever will. The capacity we have to inflict the most incredible barbarity on each other continues unabated. George Floyd learned that, didn't he?

Lisbeth @ The Content Reader said...

Sounds like a really interesting read. Wartime books tend to be about men, and it is interesting to see how women survived.

Happy to see you are in Paris in July! Me too.

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, this book sounds like a must read for me. Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday and Happy July!

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

Sounds like a good book for a book club to read and discuss. When I was in one two years ago we burned ourselves out reading WWII books and this one would have fit right in. People do what they need to do to survive but the key question is, can they live with what they did after it was all over?

La Table De Nana said...

I find these books riveting and oh so sad:(
Life is not fair..perfect example.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

This book may be at my library. I am in such sad spirits that I decided to focus on light reads this year during my time in Paris, but perhaps these will improve. The time of WWII offers paradoxical contrasts in behavior that seem (sadly) typical of us humans: the very worst behavior, full of desire for destruction and revenge and hatred, as well as the very best behavior, selfless, sacrificial, caring and loving.

My name is Erika. said...

This sounds like a good read Jeanie. I am adding it to my list. I have kind of shied away from WW2 stories, not sure why, even though I've picked up a couple of the big books in the last few years and also a couple of audio books. Sometimes I am just weird and like to read my own thing and not what is hot I guess. But this sounds good. Hope all is well at the lake. More rain here. Hugs-Erika

Pam said...

I am thinking that my one day of seeing Paris will never be but maybe since my daughter loves all Paris maybe one day she will make it. I personally would love to just visit the New England States.

Mae Travels said...

Your strength is awesome! How do you face these stories of life-endangering bravery and self-sacrifice, and also of cruelty, cynicism, and self-serving cowardice all at one go?

During Paris in July I'm watching for two kinds of posts: one about an imaginary Paris and one about a more "real" city. The imaginary includes good fiction, especially by French authors, and also includes dubious things like mysteries by not-well-versed-in Paris Americans or made-up stuff about home furnishings "Paris" style. The "real" includes observations of life, recipes, history, photos of trips -- and now, as you have shown, tales of real people who showed heroism and selflessness in the face of the Nazi atrocities. Or who didn't.

Great review!

be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Rustic Pumpkin said...

There were some unbelievably brave women during the war. While I would love to learn more {as a student of fashion} about the fashions, I don't think I would feel comfortable doing so from such a book.

Deb in Wales

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Not your typical first Paris in July entry, but notable and stunningly much like what is going on in the states today. It seems to parallel the actions (and inactions) of some today. I would give anything to visit these camps because I have read SO much about them. I think this would be a good book to read, too. Not light reading, not a page turner, but a book on the history we seem to want to hide or ignore.

Bella Rum said...

I appreciate the review. I put it on my list. I had a friend who worked for the resistance. She died a few years ago. So brave she was.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

I have read several books dealing with WWII and would recommend Erik Larson's latest, The Splendid and the Vile, about Winston Churchill and Britain during the German blitz.

Marilyn Miller said...

No, we must never forget. Sounds like a fascinating book. I read a fiction a while back that had this theme. Now trying to remember the name of the book. It was a good one. I do like reading about women's heroism during the World Wars.

Prims By The Water said...

Yes we must never forget them. TFS Janice

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

Sounds like a very worthwhile read. Thanks for sharing. I read far more non-fiction than anything. I'm sure I would be in awe of those brave strong women.

handmade by amalia said...

Sounds like a fascinating read. Are your reading the Maisie Dobbs books? It is one of my favorite series and she has just reached WWII.
Amalia
xo

Arti said...

Important book indeed. Look forward to more of your Paris in July reading reviews.

Iris Flavia said...

P.S., Jeanie, as you liked the kangaroos: Have a look at Wendy Binks, Stunned Emu Designs, she has so much more funny art!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

What a great book - sounds fascinating. I have always found WWII so interesting; it was my parents' war. I don't know maybe because I grew up watching B/W 40's movies on TV, but it definitely sounds like a winner.

Brona said...

I think I have this book on my TBR pile somewhere - you may have enticed me to read it this month too :-)

Lynne said...

Thanks Jeanie . . . another on my list.
Might move this closer to the top!

Sketchbook Wandering said...

I am the daughter of resistance workers and nazi opposers. My parents saw their city destroyed, lost most of their family and friends, many horrors. I do love that in spite of the trauma and the loss, of people, of their country which they loved so much, they were able to also have creative spirits...be humorous, curious, lifeful, loving..I won't read the book as I have read much about these events and their lives in my youth, but I hope many people will read it and learn. Thanks for sharing this, Jeanie.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Thanks for sharing the book. I need to get back to reading.

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Jeanie, thank you so much for the information on this book. I have read much about this terrible period of time and as of late, I am wondering what we learned by all of it. I will definitely read this.

Hope this finds you enjoying the lake. Wishing you, Rick and Lizzie a Happy Fourth of July!

DUTA said...

It is necessary that we all read books like this one, reviewed by you.

I know things from the source: my parents were Holocaust survivors. Their stories help me foresee the future. Sadly, things are not getting better; it's just that people live in a "paradise of fools".
The 'corona crisis', for instance, is going to bring about in addition to disease and death, also protests, violence, riots, famine.(I'm speaking,of course, of the country of my residence.).

Sandra Cox said...

True heroes.

Lowcarb team member said...

Many thanks for sharing details and information about this book.

Happy Weekend Wishes

All the best Jan

Sandra Cox said...

Happy 4th of July weekend. Hope you catch some fireworks at the lake.

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

Happy 4th of July Jeanie! Hugs J.

Anca said...

This is exactly the kind of book I would love to read. I'm going to see if I can find it at the library.
Who knows what any of us would have done. I just hope fewer and fewer of us would be in the position to have to make this choice. There still are wars around the world, but I hope that in time these will end and that we will all be able to live in peace.

crackercrumblife said...

What a powerful read. History gives us so much perspective, and shows us the best and the worst of humankind. This sounds like a very important book to read. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

This sounds really good. I need to check it out! It’s right up my alley as I love all things French and love reading about WWII.

Carola Bartz said...

This seems to be a very interesting book - I have read many books (fiction and non-fiction) about the occupation, but never one just dedicated to the women. I will keep this one in mind.

Jenny Woolf said...

It sounds gripping but I am not sure really I like reading books about that period. We had a friend who was tiny in occupied France and their house had had lots of German soldiers billeted on them. It must have been incredibly upsetting but that was the least of what people had to deal with.

Popular Posts