Tuesday 13 October 2020

Les Parisiennes

Finished October 11
Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died under Nazi Occupation by Anne Sebba.

This is a fascinating look at history with a female focus. The book is set up chronologically, with each year getting a chapter up until 1944, which gets two chapters. 1947 to 1949 is one chapter. There were overviews on what was happening generally and then a focus on particular women that we see in more than one time period.
These individual women are mostly from higher social classes as more is known about them and thus available to researchers. They include women active in the Resistance, women resisting in less formal ways, women who collaborated at various levels and with various degrees of success, Jewish women targeted for their heritage, Jewish women who managed to fly under the radar of the authorities, and women who just tried to live their lives however they could manage.
Some women were driven by personal circumstances, some by love for a man, some by love for a cause, some really didn't seem to really understand the reality of their situation, even after the war was over.
I learned a lot about these women, and about the lack of support and recognition that they received. Whether it was the Red Cross refusing to approach the Germans about Ravensbruck because it wasn't a POW camp (even though many of the women held there had been sent into action by Allied forces), or the lack of recognition of the role women played by political leaders and historians until more recently, this is a story too of suppression of women's voices and accomplishments.
It is also a story of Paris, showing its role in history before this time and since, its role as a fashion capital of the world, and the ingenuity of many of its citizens.
Very readable and well-researched, an excellent addition to the history book collection for any library, academic or public.

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