Les Parisiennes

Written by Anne Sebba
Review by Janice Ottersberg

The struggles and accomplishments of women in Paris under the Nazi occupation during WWII have often been overlooked in history, and their contributions to the French Resistance were undervalued. Anne Sebba has done extensive research about these brave women from all walks of life and what they did not only to survive but often to defy their German occupiers.  She also writes of women who collaborated with the enemy and others who were forced to choose sides by circumstance.

Sebba begins with pre-war Paris then moves to the Nazi invasion and the setting up of the Vichy government, liberation, and reconstruction. She details women’s lives throughout this time period, including the fallout of their choices after the war, when many were harshly punished for real or perceived collaboration with the enemy.  The women who did participate in the French Resistance movement were not given full credit for their accomplishments and the importance of their war efforts.

The scope of the book is large, and justice isn’t done to the individual stories of these brave women. The narrative is confusing to follow as it moves back and forth between the broad details of war and history to the narrow, brief accounts of hundreds of women’s fascinating circumstances.