Caroline Moorehead

Occupational Hazards

Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 457pp £20 order from our bookshop

In the spring of 1942, a French résistante called Cécile, forced to go underground in Paris on account of her activities, was asked by her mother how, since she was herself the mother of a young daughter, she could carry out this work. ‘It is precisely because I have a child that I do it,’ Cécile replied. ‘I do not want her to grow up in a world of occupation and collaboration.’ Les Parisiennes is full of stories of equally brave women, alongside those of women who collaborated with the Germans. It is said that a similar proportion of the population – some 10 per cent – became either active resisters or active collaborators during what became known as les Années Noires, with the rest simply carrying on, as best they could, their ordinary lives. Until 1938 women had only been allowed to work or own property with the permission of their fathers and husbands. As Anne Sebba shows, life for Parisian women was a deeply ambiguous affair. Their experiences, like a kaleidoscope, can be ‘turned in any number of ways to produce a different image’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,