Monday, March 20, 2017

Americans in Paris During WWII

Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 by Charles Glass
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of Americans and part-Americans in Paris, as well as in Europe in general, during WWII, not to mention leading up to the war, and in some cases well before the war.

Was that a clunky sentence? I'm afraid it mirrors my reading experience of Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 by Charles Glass.

It's a compilation of biographies of the more well-known or at least well to do Americans who decided to stay in France after the German occupation. Their individual sympathies run the gamut from Nazi sympathizers to fighters alongside La RĂ©sistance. Reading of their histories or hearing from their own words what it was like was the book's strong point for me. Unfortunately, most of the stories are about the upper class, the rich, and at best the intellectuals. Not much is heard the lower classes. I would've liked to have caught a glimpse of their diaries. But as with nearly all histories, this one too sticks with the big names, if you will.

That's all right. There's plenty of intrigue herein to keep most people with an ingrained interest glued to the page. Those of a political mind will get something out of Glass' sections on the Vichy government, the German-collaborate interim French government.

Consummate journalist Glass does a good job of giving the reader a chance to empathize with those who were on the fence with the German occupation, those who worked with the Germans in order to keep important French institutions operational until the liberation. It could not have been easy. The book has also been well-crafted so that readers are left wondering, as the world was, regarding the allegiance of a few of the notable fence-sitters.

Charles Glass earned his stripes as a war correspondent:

One of Glass's best known stories was his 1986 interview on the tarmac of Beirut Airport of the crew of TWA Flight 847 after the flight was hijacked. He broke the news that the hijackers had removed the hostages and had hidden them in the suburbs of Beirut, which caused the Reagan administration to abort a rescue attempt that would have failed and led to loss of life at the airport. Glass made headlines in 1987, when he was taken hostage for 62 days in Lebanon by Shi'a militants. He describes the kidnapping and escape in his book, Tribes with Flags. - Wikipedia

So I bow to his knowledge and ability. My low-ish rating of Americans in Paris has little to with him and a good deal to do with the subject. I was hoping for more detail on the Resistance fighting. We get only a light smattering: a mention of rooftop fighting or a young French man shooting a German soldier in the streets. But this is not that book. So take my rating with a grain of salt. This quite good book just wasn't the book for me.

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