The best books about living with the enemy

Ruth Druart Author Of While Paris Slept
By Ruth Druart

The Books I Picked & Why

Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer

By James W. Brown, Lawrence D. Stokes, Cyril Connelly

Book cover of Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer

Why this book?

This book is about passive resistance to the Nazi occupation; about taking a stand and not talking to the enemy, using silence as a weapon, not letting the invader feel comfortable. There is no action, no fights, no gore, no espionage. A family is obliged to live with a Nazi and endure his presence, but behind the enemy uniform, there is an individual, a human being. I found it touching and beautiful that in the midst of the German invasion of his country, Vercors could write about the enemy in such a tender and tolerant way. This is the book that inspired me to write my second novel about a German in Paris during the occupation.


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Suite Française

By Irene Nemirovsky

Book cover of Suite Française

Why this book?

This book immediately took me to Paris during the occupation, an atmosphere I was looking to recreate for my own novel. The mess of defeat, hypocrisy, cowardice, courage, and compromise is brilliantly portrayed, but there is also hope and love, and this is what made it stand out as a tender, human story. Though a work of fiction, it was written by a Jewish woman who was arrested and murdered by the Nazis in 1942.


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The Journal of Hélène Berr

By Helene Berr, David Bellos

Book cover of The Journal of Hélène Berr

Why this book?

This is the diary of a 21-year-old Jewish woman living in Paris during the German Occupation. A student at the Sorbonne, we follow her as she writes a first-hand account of the ever-increasing hardships and terrors her and her family face. She writes candidly about her experiences, her thoughts and beliefs as she and her family go about their daily routines, while living in constant fear of being arrested. It is a touching, personal testimony about Paris during World War II. She was arrested on the one night her family decided to sleep in their own home. Tragically, she died only days before her camp was liberated by the British. Some poignant details in her diary stayed with me long after I finished reading, and I used some of them in my novel.


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Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944

By Ian Ousby

Book cover of Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944

Why this book?

This was my go-to book when I researched the occupation. Well-written and thorough, it is sensitive, well-balanced, and insightful, neither seeking to blame nor to praise, but to understand a nation in trauma. The photos and personal quotes brought it to life, and it is one of those non-fiction books that the fiction lover can appreciate. It reads seamlessly.


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Les Parisiennes: Resistance, Collaboration, and the Women of Paris Under Nazi Occupation

By Anne Sebba

Book cover of Les Parisiennes: Resistance, Collaboration, and the Women of Paris Under Nazi Occupation

Why this book?

Living with the enemy, during the occupation, the women of Paris had to navigate their way between defiance and collusion. This grey area is brilliantly depicted in the interviews with the Parisiennes, as they swing between glamour and deprivation, fear and love. And then came liberation, followed by the years of recovery, retribution, and revenge. These women’s true accounts inspired me for my second book.


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