"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 - with France's liberation came renewal and retribution. Yet, even at the darkest moments of Occupation, with the Swastika flying from the Eiffel Tower and pet dogs abandoned howling on the streets, glamour was ever present.
It was women, more than men, who came face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis - perhaps selling them their clothes or travelling alongside them on the Métro, where a German soldier had priority over seats. How did these women react to their subjugators? What made them collaborate or resist? And did they have any choice? By looking at a wide range of individuals from collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes to teachers and writers, Anne Sebba shows that women, whether they were Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, or fashion and jewellery designers, had to make life-and-death decisions every day, and often did whatever they needed to survive.
Some women, like the heiress Béatrice de Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; Coco Chanel even retreated to the Ritz with a German lover. A young medical student, Anne Spoerry, gave lethal injections to camp inmates but was also known to have saved the lives of Jews.
But this is not just a book about wartime. Sebba also explores the aftershock of the Second World War and the choices demanded. How did the women who survived to see the liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Although politics lies at its heart, Les Parisiennes is above all an account of the lives of the people of the city and, most of all, its women and young girls."
Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba will be published on 14th. July.