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Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation

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In France, the German occupation is called simply the "dark years." There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative history drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, uncovers the complex truth of the time. Robert Gildea's groundbreaking stu In France, the German occupation is called simply the "dark years." There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative history drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, uncovers the complex truth of the time. Robert Gildea's groundbreaking study reveals the everyday life in the heart of occupied France; the pressing imperatives of work, food, transportation, and family obligations that led to unavoidable compromise and negotiation with the army of occupation.


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In France, the German occupation is called simply the "dark years." There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative history drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, uncovers the complex truth of the time. Robert Gildea's groundbreaking stu In France, the German occupation is called simply the "dark years." There were only the "good French" who resisted and the "bad French" who collaborated. Marianne in Chains, a broad and provocative history drawing on previously unseen archives, firsthand interviews, diaries, and eyewitness accounts, uncovers the complex truth of the time. Robert Gildea's groundbreaking study reveals the everyday life in the heart of occupied France; the pressing imperatives of work, food, transportation, and family obligations that led to unavoidable compromise and negotiation with the army of occupation.

30 review for Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Couchman

    I wish I could give this book more stars. Robert Gildea's thesis is that the traditional view of the French as suffering under the oppressive German occupation is much too simplistic. In fact, French experience covered the gamut from active resistance to open collaboration, with every shade of opinion or activity in between. And being a supporter of Pétain didn't necessarily mean that you welcomed the Occupation. As Gildea writes, "Relations between French and Germans were sometimes more complic I wish I could give this book more stars. Robert Gildea's thesis is that the traditional view of the French as suffering under the oppressive German occupation is much too simplistic. In fact, French experience covered the gamut from active resistance to open collaboration, with every shade of opinion or activity in between. And being a supporter of Pétain didn't necessarily mean that you welcomed the Occupation. As Gildea writes, "Relations between French and Germans were sometimes more complicated than a crude division between oppressors and oppressed." The myth about Resistance and Liberation quickly overlaid the complexities of life in France under the Occupation. Gildea carried out detailed research on the Occupation in the lower Loire Valley, which was in the Occupied Zone. This included eye-witness oral accounts from people who were already very elderly and of whom few are now still alive (the book was published in 2002). While applying the caveats that must always be employed with oral accounts, they were nonetheless a valuable corrective to "official" histories and archive material. The problem is that this is a sprawling book that is not served by Gildea's thematic approach. Information is often presented several times in different places. And the level of detail sometimes goes beyond what is required even in a scholarly work. I found myself skipping passages as a result. The writing style can be a bit heavy, too. Having said this, this is still a valuable work that explodes the myths around this period of French history and leaves one with a clearer idea of its complexity and ambivalence. I would have liked to understand a little more about the everyday lives of ordinary people but, at this remove, this information is now hard to uncover.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maria Strayer

    Gildea sets out to present occupied France during WWII in a new light. He shifts focus away from the Resistance and attempts to dispel the commonly accepted notion that occupied France was not such a brutally repressive place. Gildea does not ignored the harsh treatment and reaction of the Germans and the hardships that the French endured during the years of occupations but he instead focuses on how the French people learned to adapt and survive. He traces the emergence of new relationships betw Gildea sets out to present occupied France during WWII in a new light. He shifts focus away from the Resistance and attempts to dispel the commonly accepted notion that occupied France was not such a brutally repressive place. Gildea does not ignored the harsh treatment and reaction of the Germans and the hardships that the French endured during the years of occupations but he instead focuses on how the French people learned to adapt and survive. He traces the emergence of new relationships between French and Germans in both business and pleasure and even demonstrated how the French did not view Vichy as negatively as believed. Not that the French are to be viewed as German supporters but in Gildea's mind they were not "poor victims" either. Very interesting, well researched, well documented work. This is quite a lengthy book but Gildea's writing form keep the reader interested--not as dry as a good number of other historical works!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mike Clinton

    Aside from the historiographical contribution it makes by challenging the oversimplified and even romanticized myth of the French plight under German occupation during World War II, Marianne in Chains immerses the reader in daily life in the region along the Loire from Tours to St-Nazaire. The research is meticulous and varied, producing a compelling argument fortified by anecdotes whose layers of significance Gildea reveals through adroit analysis. The final chapter on the complexity of collect Aside from the historiographical contribution it makes by challenging the oversimplified and even romanticized myth of the French plight under German occupation during World War II, Marianne in Chains immerses the reader in daily life in the region along the Loire from Tours to St-Nazaire. The research is meticulous and varied, producing a compelling argument fortified by anecdotes whose layers of significance Gildea reveals through adroit analysis. The final chapter on the complexity of collective memory of the Occupation in France generally and this region specifically is especially interesting. I had expected the book to be interesting and informative but hadn't expected it to be such an enjoyable read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jacky Rodriguez

    Probably the best book I've ever read on the effects of the German occupation of France during World War 2. I can't recommend this book enough.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Raymond

    A very insightful, well-written, and engaging history of varying French responses to the Occupation years of 1940-1945. For the most part the author eschews high level political intrigues in order to show the impacts on and actions taken by everyday French citizens. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second simply because the first half seemed more focused on everyday citizens and their stories while the second half drifted more into political realms. Even so, the book was highly A very insightful, well-written, and engaging history of varying French responses to the Occupation years of 1940-1945. For the most part the author eschews high level political intrigues in order to show the impacts on and actions taken by everyday French citizens. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second simply because the first half seemed more focused on everyday citizens and their stories while the second half drifted more into political realms. Even so, the book was highly informative and a valuable resource for researching my novel, which is set in 1930s/1940s France. Go forth and read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Selvin

    Good description of the WWII occupation of several departments along the Loire at the Atlantic Coast. Lots of excellent local observations and stories. I was disappointed in the summary and conclusions: he tried to mediate the complex forces at work without ranking them or discussing their relative importance morally and politically, as though the treatment of the Jews could be compared to the forced labor of young men and women, which, by the way, was more resisted by the government and police Good description of the WWII occupation of several departments along the Loire at the Atlantic Coast. Lots of excellent local observations and stories. I was disappointed in the summary and conclusions: he tried to mediate the complex forces at work without ranking them or discussing their relative importance morally and politically, as though the treatment of the Jews could be compared to the forced labor of young men and women, which, by the way, was more resisted by the government and police than the forced emigration of the Jews.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Wallace

    I read this book as part of my research for my new novel. A fascinating look at life under the occupation.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Possibly the best, and certainly the best-written, account of la vie quotidienne in Second World War France. Fantastic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex George

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Farrell

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kershaw

  14. 5 out of 5

    James P

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nick Blair

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaron

  17. 5 out of 5

    George King

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jönathan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ghammarth

  20. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Baird

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mel

  23. 4 out of 5

    F PACKER

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janetcowell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Derek

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda Schaeber

  28. 4 out of 5

    Graham Veitch

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pessoa

  30. 5 out of 5

    Luis

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