Great book, a well-written narrative following the lives of those caught in Paris during WWII. Author Charles Glass's writing style is neither dry nor boring, yet gives enough flavor of the times that the reader can easily picture themselves there on Parisian boulevards. As a WWII history buff, I totally enjoyed this book.
Well documented with accurate resources. Having been born during that era, I have studied videos, reports, documentaries and stories from my Father and others who fought in WWII, but many things I didn't know came forth in this book. I sincerely appreciate all the time, effort and research the writer put into this book
This vivid account of a handful of Americans in the "City of Lights" under Nazi occupationis is very well written and historically instructive about France during the war--the resistance and the collaborators, and the gray areas in between. The author's made an excellent selection of the several Americans living in Paris before, during and after the war. Each had his or her own backround, education, ethnicity and life experience, which impacted if not mandated each's perception of the occupation, and the war itself. From the intellectual female bookshop owner, rubbing shoulders with James Joyce and Ernest Hemmingway, to the multi-millionaire businessman who often met with Ike's assistant but also Nazi economic planners, to the selfless and courageous physician and his wife keeping the American Hospital in Paris running, the cast of characters reflect individual reactions to hell on earth in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The book has great structure and rhythm. As a reader, I was constantly evaluating the conduct of some of the main characters--are they actually cooperating with the Nazis, or are they giving them a "head-fake"? Some of the characters are not at issue--they were anti-Nazi patriots throughout. Others are not nearly as clear. Was planning to build a pipeline from the middle east to Europe intended to feed Hitler's hungry mechanized war machine, or was it the fulfillment of a personal dream, to ensure economic efficiency and prosperity after an Allied victory? Was personally leaning on FDR to feed starving Vichy French men and woman an act of mercy, or was it collaboration with the Nazi puppett? But what of it? What about the true collaborators? Despite the evil incarnate fueling the Third Reich, how can we make moral judgments about others experiencing the ultimate challenge to one's principles and decency with their lives and their family's lives at stake? We all would like to think we would never and could never succumb compromising our humanity in the interests of self-preservation, but not one of us can be sure until the moment comes. Glass's book makes the reader think of these things. This book chronicles how a precious few reacted, under fire, and should stand as a historical testiment to those who sacrificed it all for the dignity and decency of mankind. I recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII history.
This books lacks one thing,which I will mention later.Indeed, this absorbing and informative account of a great number of Americans living in Paris is quickly-paced and illuminative.We get many stories about a vast array of characters.You can easily fall in love with many of them,and I personally felt getting attached to one person,namely:Sylvia Beach, who ran a bookshop in Paris and hid many Jews during this shameful episode of French history.Why was this particular woman so fascinating ?I will not spoil the stories about her.It definitely was not only Sylvia Beach but others as well who populate this narrative.Approximately thirty thousand Americans lived in Paris-an impressive Diaspora of millionaires,diplomats,writers,artists,doctors and many more.The book is divided into seven parts and each one deals with one years, respectively from 1940-1944.The last year,1944,is described in two parts which are not equal in their length.While the first half of the book is mainly about those Americans living in security,the second one tells the reader about their fortune or misfortune after the occupation of France by the Nazis.It is interesting to note that the author barely mentions the acts of Resistance in which Josephine Baker took place. The main problem is that there is no thread connecting the various characters along the book and there are many unanswered questions about some of these Americans.While we get a very good account about Sylvia Beach and her ordeal,we do not find out what happened to the other minor characters. Although this main missing point, I will still recommend this book to those who are interested to find out what had happened to those Americans living in those tumultuous times during the Nazi occupation.The reasons are those that have been mentioned already plus the fact that the author gives us a very intimate picture of the various realities about this assortment of US citizens, most of them unknown to the general reader.All this is told in an objective,impartial way.Tales of heroism and treachery or cowardice abound in this opus and merit the attention of any reader.
This is an interesting and well-written book. The main insight that I got from it has to do with the ambiguities encountered by civilians caught between battling armies. The war, to them, boiled down to day-to-day existence, trying to stay alive and, at the same time, retain at least some loyalty to their principles. For example, the American Hospital in Paris treated many French wounded as the Germans approached, but did everything it could to avoid treating German occupiers. There was the man the French considered a hero and the American government considered a traitor. Which was he? People who choose to live outside their home countries have a different perspective on the world and on life. You can see it in this book.