GoldGato's Reviews > The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s

The Hollow Years by Eugen Weber
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's review
Mar 11, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: history, spring, war

The behavior of France in World War II always perplexed me. It appeared the French simply said, "C'est la vie", and all but invited the Germans to walk right on in without much of a fight. It has forever tainted France, to the point where I have travelled worldwide and have heard jokes about the lack of resolve for Frenchmen.

Yet, for almost 120 years, France was a mighty war power. Napoleon set in bootprints the path his countrymen would take, and it carried into the mid-nineteenth century where France was considered the greatest military power on the continent (not the Brits, who focused on industry and empire consolidation). Mon dieu, what happened?

The Crimean War happened. The Franco-Prussian War happened. World War I happened. By the time the 1930s came around, France had enough of war and the senseless slaughter of seemingly every other generation of young men. While this doesn't excuse their limp response to Hitler, it does explain the background leading to the beginning of WWII.

Eugen Weber does a good job of understanding that the basic reader will be opening the book with the same question I had, and he takes the reader briskly through history and the results. Still, the results leave one saddened...Great Britain also had the disastrous Crimean War and the Boer War, plus the generation lost in the Great War. Yet, the Brits never gave up, even with the bombing that cost them more civilian lives than the French endured from the Nazis.

So, perhaps, in the end, one thinks that maybe the backbone of a nation is its leaders...England had Churchill and the good fortune to have a King whose brother might have brought the nation to surrender. France had destroyed its monarchy long ago and seemingly any sense of leadership. Maybe it's easy for me to sit back and decide what history should have been without having experienced the trauma preceding the fact. Still, it doesn't excuse the Vichy Regime and the handing over of France's Jewish population.

For shame, my father's people, for shame.

Book Season = Spring (April in Paris might help)

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