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Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,121 ratings  ·  226 reviews
What did it feel like to be a woman living in Paris from 1939 to 1949? These were years of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation and secrets until – finally – renewal and retribution. Even in the darkest moments of Occupation, glamour was ever present. French women wore lipstick. Why?

It was women who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis – p
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 14th 2016)
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3.79  · 
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 ·  1,121 ratings  ·  226 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Oct 18, 2016 rated it liked it
A wide range and sweeping view of the many different women, many well known, who were in Paris immediately before, during and after the Nazi occupation. Your enjoyment of this will depend on what you as the reader expect to get out of this book. It is certainly well researched, in fact the last 20% of the book is footnotes and sources. I found the huge amount of information as well as the large cast of people to be confusing and frustrating. Different people do sometimes overlap but often many c ...more
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled, “How the women of Paris lived, loved and died under Nazi Occupation,” this looks at the years 1939 – 1949 with the focus firmly on the female citizens of that great city. It begins in July 1939 with a society party, given by eighty one year old Elsie de Wolfe. The US born interior decorator, married to a retired UK diplomat, gave legendary parties; but this example demonstrates a sense of recklessness which prevailed at that time. Yet, by the autumn, both France and England would be a ...more
This is a sweeping tour of the choices and life-paths of women under the German Occupation of Paris during World 2. Some are the few heroines we recognize from books and film who helped hide Jews or joined a Resistance network. Others are emblematic courtesans, entertainers, and war profiteers who forged self-serving connections with the new masters, including ones who spied and informed on Resistance activities, facilitated the roundup of Jews for internment, or reaped profits from the appropri ...more
Laurie Anderson
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THIS is how you write about history; broad and deep!

Sebba's examination of the lives of French women (mostly focussed around Parisians) gives readers fascinating close-ups into the horrifying challenges they faced during the war. She does an incredible job with this - I constantly paused the audiobook to look up the avalanche of information the author sent my way. But even more, I appreciate the brilliant job Sebba did setting the lives of those women and the impossible choices they had to make
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing feat of research. The author gathers together the stories of a multitude of French women during WW2. There are probably at least twenty women here who merit a biography in their own right. Some working for the resistance, some collaborating with the Nazis, others trying to carry on as if nothing had changed. The problem I had with this book though is that no sooner had I become riveted by the story of one woman the narrative jumped to another. Probably a fully detailed account ...more
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do we really need yet another book about Paris during the Second World War?

I don’t know the answer to that question. We do need this book, however.

In the past few years, it seems that the role of women in war is getting more attention and study, at least in popular culture. Hopefully, Hollywood will catch up and instead of the fictional Charlotte Grey we will have a lavish movie about the real Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who also we
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, favorites
My only complaint about this book is that it could have been better organized. Sebba tells the stories of so many people, one right after the other, often switching to a new person with each paragraph, that it's hard to keep track of them all. But the writing is very good and the stories are so compelling that it hardly matters. An excellent, well researched book for those who want to know what life was like for women living in Paris during the German occupation of World War II.
Roman Clodia
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'C'est très compliqué'

This is an utterly absorbing read as Sebba explores in minute and nuanced detail the lives of women during and after the Nazi Occupation of Paris. Organised in a year by year chronology, this moves from the early German charm offensive ('German soldiers: they were fantastic - tall, tanned, Wagnerian') to the gradual closing of the fist as, with the active collaboration of the Vichy government, Jews, résistants, Allied spies and airmen, were rounded up, imprisoned, deported,
Laurie Notaro
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book ten stars, I would. What a carefully woven picture of history we are given with Anne Sebba's remarkable book. The research is meticulous and precise; the lives we are drawn into are each a portrait in themselves. I started 2016 with Ravensbruck, and that was another magnificent book of documentation. This book stands aside that one and also A Train in Winter. Essential reading to understand what happened in France during the Occupation. Do not let yourself get sidetrack ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-france
Admittedly I have read extensively, both non fiction ( or history) and fiction regarding the Nazi Occupation of Paris during WWII, but I have never read such a dramatic,well written and. phenomenally researched history/discourse on the lives of the women of France who resisted or collaborated, survived or were killed during the Occupation. Anne Sebba has put together the stories of the famous, infamous and the many women who are barely remembered from this period and illuminates the complexity o ...more
Katrina Oliver
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The lives lived by french women during the Nazi occupation of WW2, and wow, what lives they lived! This book covers the stories of collaborators, those who collaborated in a big way and those who did so in a much smaller way, resistors and victims. Paris had the whole gamut. A fascinating read for anyone interested in this period, the book highlights the life of the times, as lived by the women of the times. Incredibly brave women, sad women and greedy women are all portrayed vividly, the book d ...more
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
As this was an ARC from Bookbrowse the pictures which will be in the published edition were lacking and that is sad, for the captions of the empty spaces indicate that they will greatly enhance this story of the incredible women who lived through the German occupation of Paris and the rest of France during WW II. There are places where the story drags and others where the story is repetitious but overall it is a fascinating story.
It begins in 1939 when the City becomes aware of the German threa
Jul 07, 2016 rated it liked it
I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from Bookbrowse in return for a First Impressions review.

Anne Sebba's history of the German occupation of Paris, seen through the eyes of its women, has much to recommend it. The book is extensively researched, using both primary and secondary sources, and covers the impact of the Paris Occupation by the Nazis from a variety of perspectives: the social and artistic elite, the fashion community, collaborators, Resistance participants, Jews, mother
Jan C
I am of the opinion that this is a book that needs to be read and not listened to. I checked it out of the library on OverDrive three times and still had an hour left of listening. How long does an Epilogue need to be? This one was 1 1/2-2 hours worth of talking. I noticed it still had 4 hours left and the war was over. At any rate, I doubt that I will check it out again just to hear the last hour of the Epilogue, unless someone can tell me there is something fascinating or vital that I need to ...more
Cassie Nelson
Jul 21, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was extremely well researched. It feels that no detail was left unused. The book has a large cast of characters that makes the read intriguing as well as frustrating. It is very difficult to keep all of the characters straight and at times I had to put the book down because I was frustrated with confusion. I think that this book would work excellent in a women's studies or world history class in college. I think the best way to utilize this book would be to dissect each character and w ...more
Nancy Ellis
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written history of the courage of the women of Paris in the days leading up to WW2 and following through the days of the Marshall Plan. The majority of books I'm personally familiar with focus on one particular aspect of wartime France, such as the resistance, victims of the Nazis such as the Jews and other political/religious groups, or the "regular" people just trying to survive. This book combines every aspect of life in Paris and surrounding areas of France, bringing to life the ...more
Krisette Spangler
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I gave the book 4 stars, because I learned so much about the German Occupation of France during WWII. There are so many fronts to that war, and the suffering is horrible at almost every angle. The French were no exception, and it was fascinating to read about the different ways women worked to resist the German occupation of their country. It was horrific to read of their treatment in German prisoner of war camps. It never ceases to astonish me what took place in those horrible camps.

The book i
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Meticulously researched and written in an accessible and lively style, this exploration of the lives of women in Paris during the Second World War is both compelling and informative. Covering a wide range of women, from the humble to the “big names” such as Chanel, the author approaches what is essentially a very emotive subject non-judgementally and with balance and fairness.
Aug 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
repetitive and disjointed. DNF
Carolyn Harris
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well researched history of Parisian women's experiences before, during and after the Second World War. Sebba emphasizes the difficult choices that individual women made in occupied Paris as well as the evolution of women's roles in French society as a result of the war. In the 1930s, French women did not have the vote, were barred from certain professions and often did not have access to bank accounts. In common with many other European countries, the war transformed women's lives and equal ri ...more
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So many stories and histories packed into this book! This book may need to be read twice to absorb it all. I did not really know about much about the resistance and didn’t even think about women’s roles. Shame on me… As with any war, I now realize that it is the women who so much falls on. And in this case, the war was fought right at home. The sacrifices and choices made were questionable, but under the circumstances what could women do? Thank heavens so many kept diaries.

This book starts at t
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book, but I found the writing to be dry and the large number of characters hard to keep straight. I've only gotten half way through Part One so far and hope that my opinion will change next time I pick it up. For now I'm putting it back on my shelf in order to move onto something else on my list.
A lot of information; will need another read to really take in everything.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women, france, ww2
Inevitably in a book that offers snapshots of so many women there are going to be a few who fascinate you more than others. What was often surprising was the naivety of some women, like the Jewish woman who believed herself immune to the deportations because she belonged to a well-connected riding club. Also fascinating were the women who collaborated with the Nazis, albeit often in a spirit of self-serving compromise rather than zealous adhesion to Nazi policy. Also fascinating was how fashion ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was looking forward to reading this book. I read Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” which piqued my interest in how the women in France survived Nazi occupation. I also read CW Gortner’s “Mademoiselle Chanel” which had a lot of information on how she and others like her survived.

This nonfiction book was well researched for the period 1939 – 1949. The majority of the book addresses the lives of “the rich and the famous” and, I admit, I scanned much of those sections. I was more interested in t
Many films and books have explored the hardships of war, particularly in Paris, but few have focused solely on the women, their struggles and challenges that threatened their survival with shortages, dangers and frankly, a madman with a mission in charge. While reading this book, there was one moment that kept returning to me, from The Monuments Men, a scene with Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett as Rose Valland. Hoping to get help from Valland, now in jail and viewed as a ‘collaborator’, Damon expl ...more
Maureen M
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: france, history, wwii
I wrote this review for the newspaper:
The Nazis have taken over your town, the men are in prisons or factories, and food is scarce. How will you get through the rest of the war?
That’s the central question of “Les Parisiennes,” Anne Sebba’s deep look at the women caught in the occupation of Paris during World War II. The best answer may be “C’est compliqué,” the one the French came to lean upon.
From 1940-45, Paris became “a significantly feminized city,” Sebba writes, “and the women had to negoti
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Lewie Dunn
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Lewie by: Library Thing dot com
Review of Anne Sebba's Les Parisiennes for Libray Thing dot com.

This work would be excellent for a Women's Study Class, a class of World War II, French History or Spies. It is a history and biography of women in Paris and the surrounding area of France during the 1940's it not only covers events leading up to the Fall of Paris but the events that occurred during the entire 1940's era.The work shows not only ordinary everyday Parisiennes but from the top social classes to the lowest classes both
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Anne Sebba began her writing career at the BBC world service, Arabic section, while still a student. After graduating from King’s College, London in Modern European History, she worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in London and Rome, the first woman Reuters accepted on their Graduate Trainee Scheme. In 1975 she moved to New York with her husband and first baby returning two years later w ...more