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Unfree French: Life Under The Occupation

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  78 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
In the summer of 1940 the French army was one of the largest and best in the world, confident of victory. In the space of a few nightmarish weeks that all changed as the French and their British allies were crushed and eight million people fled their homes. Richard Vinen's new book describes the consequences of that defeat. It does so not by looking at political leaders in ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Allen Lane (first published 2006)
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Jul 27, 2016 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nazi-paris, history
On the whole, I'm not one for fetishising 'the book' itself ... but I did buy this one here:

They even politely ask if you want your book stamped with the shop logo. And it was a beautiful place, a second-life for it maybe, but just a lovely bookish space...

As for the book, it purports to focus on the more voiceless elements of the Nazi Occupation of France: the non-militarised and the workers. It admits, up front, that there are few primary accounts available, and those that are available are su
Jan 04, 2008 Aaron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment -- totally uncontexualised! It assumes too much of the reader (I'm no historian and was interested in learning about this period in its context). Some interesting perspectives to be had, but would have been much more interesting if it had been set in some sort of historical narrative. As it is, it leaves you dry. There's no context to the invasion, nor political context to the division between occupied and "free France" -- I wanted more!

Still, some interesting anecdotes, al
Mar 26, 2009 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is how history should be written, rich, deeply analyzed in a tone that is both sensitive but with a little irony of a story teller. The book has the rigor of a professional work, while also having enough anecdotes and facts to appeal to the general reader. Vinen's great success with this work is highlight how varied an experiences like occupation, collaboration and resistance could be. From a theoretical point of view, he ticks all the right boxes, looking at how the German occupation diffe ...more
Mar 01, 2010 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding history, unsentimental, but with a permeating sadness. Judicious but not righteous
Feb 23, 2010 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great insights about life under the Nazis
Jul 18, 2015 Frumenty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't imagine a more thorough and engaging treatment of this topic, in all its inglorious detail. If you've ever wondered at the bravery of the «resistants», how seemingly good people could have put their faith in Pétain and his Vichy government, or how the French accommodated themselves (or not) to the daily fact of the Occupation, then you should read this. The armistice of 1940 put French government, such as it was, in the hands of conservatives with little respect for democracy, and for al ...more
Nicholas Whyte
May 12, 2013 Nicholas Whyte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, xz, 2013, 1303, b13[return][return]This is a terrifically well-researched and fluently written account of occupied France during the second world war. It is a subject where of which my previous knowledge could probably have fitted on the back of a postcard - collapse in 1940, Ptain and Laval, resistance, D-Day, don't take 'Allo! 'Allo! seriously. I had never considered the impact on France of the continuing imprisonment of the two million - two million! - soldiers captured ...more
Sep 13, 2016 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strangely personal stories about individuals involved in the war. Odd but interesting.
Nov 12, 2014 Alexandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a very different type of history book than others I have read. Richard Vinen is a professor of history at King's College. The focus of the book is on the French common people who were affected by the German Occupation from 1941-1945. Instead of rehashing the facts of the period or focusing on leaders like Petain, Laval,etc., Vinen has written a social history based on retrospective testimony. His goal was to determine why the French people made certain decisions after the armistice was ...more
Feb 21, 2015 Asma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-france
Simply, the book is very informative. It covers almost all topics that concern anyone who wants to know much about this particular period in the life of French pple and society.

It’s a historical book furnished with many French recalled stories
At the beginning, I was a kind of disappointed. That is because the first chapter was purely political. I thought I’ve been deceived by the title and that the rest would detail the political movement or the conflicts of parties …

But I was mistaken. From t
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vinen does a remarkable job untangling all the political, social and military threads involved in the spring of 1940 and the subsequent years of occupation, with special attention to using difficult sources (the intro is a very useful piece of methodology explanation history students should note) and reminding readers safe in their 2009 homes that choices were not black and white and good and evil, but gray and wrenching and complicated
May 14, 2012 Wendy rated it liked it
This book was heavy going - a recitation of many incidents with not quite enough of a sense of what the thesis was - although this, on p.78, might sum it up: "Much of what people said and did under Vichy, however, remains inscrutable." It would probably be a good companion to other sources on the German occupation of France during WWII, but I ended up dipping into each chapter rather than reading straight through.
Michael Wallace
Jul 10, 2011 Michael Wallace rated it it was amazing
Full of fascinating information. One of about a dozen books I read as I was writing The Red Rooster to help me get the flavor and facts of the era correct.
Feb 03, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very dense but overall enjoyable and extremely informational. A great look at Occupation life. Just don't read it when you're sleepy.
Michael Selvin
Lots of info on the impact of WWII on the French and the way people reacted to the constantly changing dictums of Vichy and the occupying forces.
Aug 08, 2012 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
very interesting account of the occupied years in France - had no idea things were made worse by infighting among the French, and that women took more of the 'blame' ......
Dec 04, 2008 Karen rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I gave up on this book because I found the narrative too disjointed. I'm going to read Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944 by Ian Ousby instead.
Karen E.
Mar 27, 2012 Karen E. rated it really liked it
A great overview of France during the Second World War, with emphasis on everyday people instead of those who were deported.
Linda U
Interesting book about everyday life in France during WWII. Doesn't focus on battles or the politics (some) but how the French dealt with their daily living with the Germans all around them.
Katrina rated it really liked it
Aug 08, 2016
Rachel rated it liked it
Feb 23, 2015
James rated it really liked it
Sep 14, 2016
Lee Scordis
Lee Scordis rated it it was ok
Oct 04, 2014
Antoine Vanner
Antoine Vanner rated it liked it
Dec 07, 2012
Douglas Bancks
Douglas Bancks rated it really liked it
Dec 06, 2016
Ian Racey
Social history--next to no narrative. Thick going, but well researched and informative.
Tom Ratzloff
Tom Ratzloff rated it liked it
Sep 10, 2012
Geevee rated it really liked it
Mar 21, 2011
Nezka rated it really liked it
Dec 20, 2013
Andy rated it liked it
Oct 03, 2014
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Richard Vinen is a Professor in Modern European History at King's College, London. Prior to joining the department in 1991, he was a Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge and also lectured at Queen Mary (Westfield) College.

Richard Vinen is the author of the widely praised "A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century". He writes regularly for The Independent, The Times Literary Supplemen
More about Richard Vinen...

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