100 books like Strange Defeat

By Marc Bloch,

Here are 100 books that Strange Defeat fans have personally recommended if you like Strange Defeat. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Suite Française

David Snell Author Of Sing to Silent Stones: Part One

From my list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My reading is almost entirely influenced by my own family’s extraordinary history. My mother and father-in-law were both illegitimate. Both suffered for the fact and my father-in-law was 11 years old when he first found out and was reunited with his mother, albeit on a second-class basis compared to his half siblings. My mother trained bomb aimers. My father flew Lancaster bombers and was just 19 years old in the skies above wartime Berlin. My own books combine history, my personal experiences, and my family’s past to weave wartime stories exploring the strains that those conflicts imposed on friendships.

David's book list on wartime books about families torn apart by the conflict in WW1 and WW2

David Snell Why did David love this book?

An abiding theme within my own book is that love and friendship can supplant racial and cultural differences, and this book, set in a village in France during the 2nd World War, highlights a growing and reluctant friendship between an occupier and the occupied.

The hatred that invasion induces causes any fraternisation to be labelled ‘collaboration.’ Sometimes it is. Sometimes, it is just people caught out of context seeking comfort and normality.

It is easy for those whose countries have never been occupied to scoff at the behaviour of those who had to live in the atmosphere and the reality of a hostile invasion. Let’s hope we never have to find out firsthand.

By Irene Nemirovsky,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Suite Française as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through, not in terms of battles and politicians, but by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. She did not live to see her ambition fulfilled, or to know that sixty-five years later, "Suite Francaise" would be published for the first time, and hailed as a masterpiece. Set during a year that begins with France's fall to the Nazis in June 1940 and ends with Germany turning its attention to Russia, "Suite Francaise" falls…


Book cover of Journal à quatre mains

Robert Gildea Author Of Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation

From my list on France in the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of France, seduced since I did an exchange with a French family aged fourteen and was a student in Paris in my gap year, aged eighteen, in the aftermath of 1968. Since then I have been fascinated by the tension between la France profonde and revolutionary France. France in the Second World War is a wonderful place to study both, shattered by defeat, foreign occupation and division, and generating huge amounts of literature and film, myth-making, historical research and controversy.

Robert's book list on France in the Second World War

Robert Gildea Why did Robert love this book?

A funny and moving account of life in occupied Paris by two young sisters, one sensible and studious, the other fun-loving. Written in diary form by each sister in turn, hence the ‘four hands’. Some signs of touching up with hindsight before publication in 1962. There is an English translation, ‘Diary in duo’ (1965) but currently out of print.

By Flora Groult, Benoîte Groult,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Journal à quatre mains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nouvelle édition en 2002


Book cover of Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family, Fatherland and Vichy France

Helen Martin Author Of Lot: Travels Through a Limestone Landscape in Southwest France

From my list on the Lot department of Southwest France.

Why am I passionate about this?

A francophile and a researcher. I ran the research department of The Guardian newspaper for many years. I decided to write my book after it became apparent that there were no English language guidebooks devoted to the Lot alone (and not many in French either). I have been travelling all over France since I was a child in the 50s and discovered the Lot, en route to Spain, in about 1956. I have visited every year since. Pretty well all my interests in life are centred around my passion for this area, but extend beyond it -- history, ecclesiastical architecture, vernacular architecture of Quercy, gastronomy, cave art, the Resistance.

Helen's book list on the Lot department of Southwest France

Helen Martin Why did Helen love this book?

Plenty of Resistance activity in the Lot, certainly, but it was also the home of the vicious anti-semite Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, who rounded up many Jews to their deaths on behalf of the Vichy Government. Years later, Carmen Callil, founder of Virago, was seeking psychiatric help when she came across his daughter Anne, a psychiatrist, who had been abandoned by her despicable parents.

It was Anne’s death by suicide that set Callil off on a stunning attempt to track the life of Darquier, a drunkard, a rapist, and a man of few if any redeeming features. He disgraced his family and native town, where his father was mayor of Cahors, capital of the Lot. He was sentenced to death but, protected by Franco, died a free man in Spain.

“Only lice were ever gassed at Auschwitz” was his mantra as he sent children off to the gas chambers.

By Carmen Callil,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bad Faith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This brilliant book tells the story of one of history s most despicable villains and conmen Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, Nazi collaborator and Commissioner for Jewish Affairs , who managed the Vichy government s dirty work, controlling its Jewish population. orn into an established, politically moderate family, Louis Darquier ( de Pellepoix was a later affectation) proceeded from modest beginnings to dissemble his way to power, continually reinventing himself in conformity with an obsession with racial purity and the latent anti-Semitism of the French Catholic Church. He was the ultimate chancer- always broke, always desperate for attention, social cachet, women…


Book cover of The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944

Bertram M. Gordon Author Of Historical Dictionary of World War II France: The Occupation, Vichy, and the Resistance, 1938-1946

From my list on France in World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child in New York, I was interested in history to the point where by third grade I had memorized the list of U.S. presidents beginning with George Washington. The world was more Eurocentric than now, and I was taken by what I saw as the richness of European history. Surrounded later by Leftist academics, I became interested in the Right. Why were so many, especially among the lower middle classes, drawn to the Right and fascism during the first half of the twentieth century? This led to my interviewing and studying World War II pro-Nazi French collaborators. Later I branched into food history and the history of tourism.

Bertram's book list on France in World War II

Bertram M. Gordon Why did Bertram love this book?

The role of France and the activities of the French during the Second World War German occupation, spanning the range from resistance through accommodation to collaboration, has been the subject of considerable literature on both sides of the Atlantic. First published in France in 1987, The Vichy Syndrome characterizes the memory of the war years as “a past that doesn't pass away.” The book addresses the different ways in which the war years were remembered and helped popularize the study of historical memory, meaning the study not only of the events themselves but also how they are remembered and how these memories influence political and cultural life in succeeding generations. Rousso received France’s National Order of Merit in 1995 and in 2018 was chosen by President Macron to supervise the design of France’s new Memorial Museum of Societies Facing Terrorism.  

By Henry Rousso, Arthur Goldhammer (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Vichy Syndrome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Liberation purges to the Barbie trial, France has struggled with the memory of the Vichy experience: a memory of defeat, occupation, and repression. In this provocative study, Henry Rousso examines how this proud nation-a nation where reality and myth commingle to confound understanding-has dealt with les annees noires. Specifically, he studies what the French have chosen to remember-and to conceal.


Book cover of Vichy France

Bertram M. Gordon Author Of Historical Dictionary of World War II France: The Occupation, Vichy, and the Resistance, 1938-1946

From my list on France in World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child in New York, I was interested in history to the point where by third grade I had memorized the list of U.S. presidents beginning with George Washington. The world was more Eurocentric than now, and I was taken by what I saw as the richness of European history. Surrounded later by Leftist academics, I became interested in the Right. Why were so many, especially among the lower middle classes, drawn to the Right and fascism during the first half of the twentieth century? This led to my interviewing and studying World War II pro-Nazi French collaborators. Later I branched into food history and the history of tourism.

Bertram's book list on France in World War II

Bertram M. Gordon Why did Bertram love this book?

First published in 1972, this book significantly altered the views of French collaboration with the Nazi German occupiers during the Second World War. During the immediate postwar years, many in France maintained that the Vichy government of Marshal Philippe Pétain and its supporters had done everything possible to resist and subvert the German occupiers and that the Resistance and the Pétain government had been part of the same struggle, the “sword and shield” of France against the German occupiers. Writing at a time when most relevant French archives were closed to historians and using German archival material that was captured during the war, Paxton showed that contrary to the Vichy government’s being a shield, it had in fact more actively supported the Germans while establishing an authoritarian government aligned in many ways with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This book altered French views of the war to the point where…

By Robert O. Paxton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vichy France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Robert O. Paxton's classic study of the aftermath of France's sudden collapse under Nazi invasion utilizes captured German archives and other contemporary materials to construct a strong and disturbing account of the Vichy period in France. With a new introduction and updated bibliography, Vichy France demonstrates that the collaborationist government of Marshal Petain did far more than merely react to German pressures. The Vichy leaders actively pursued their own double agenda-internally, the authoritarian and racist "national revolution," and, externally, an attempt to persuade Hitler to accept this new France as a partner in his new Europe.


Book cover of France Under the Germans: Collaboration and Compromise

Bertram M. Gordon Author Of Historical Dictionary of World War II France: The Occupation, Vichy, and the Resistance, 1938-1946

From my list on France in World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child in New York, I was interested in history to the point where by third grade I had memorized the list of U.S. presidents beginning with George Washington. The world was more Eurocentric than now, and I was taken by what I saw as the richness of European history. Surrounded later by Leftist academics, I became interested in the Right. Why were so many, especially among the lower middle classes, drawn to the Right and fascism during the first half of the twentieth century? This led to my interviewing and studying World War II pro-Nazi French collaborators. Later I branched into food history and the history of tourism.

Bertram's book list on France in World War II

Bertram M. Gordon Why did Bertram love this book?

Whereas historians and others in postwar France focused on French resistance to Nazi Germany during their Second World War occupation (1940-1944) relatively few in wartime France did in fact actively resist the Germans. Instead, while some in France either collaborated with the Germans after France’s defeat in 1940, many and arguably the majority chose a more passive accommodation to German supremacy. Especially in the early years of the occupation, French civilians often found the German soldiers more polite and seemingly respectful of the country they had just conquered than had been France’s British allies. Many in France, artists, intellectuals, business, and labor leaders, as well as military and clergy, were quite willing to accept German rule. Some hoped that German occupation would lead toward a more authoritarian French state, more in line with those of Germany and Italy at the time. Anti-Semitism was prevalent in France, where local people often…

By Philippe Burrin, Janet Lloyd (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked France Under the Germans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From 1940 to 1944, the French people adapted in a variety of ways to life under the domination of Nazi Germany. France under the Germans is the definitive study of the choices made by ordinary French citizens during that turbulent historical period, exposing for the first time the degree of their complicity with the Nazis. Acclaimed Swiss historian Philippe Burrin makes use of a wide variety of newly discovered sources: the records of businesses, industrial organizations, and banks; police files; and reports on mail censorship and telephone conversations. France under the Germans is an extraordinary analysis of the ways in…


Book cover of France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

Yehuda Moraly Author Of Revolution in Paradise: Veiled Representations of Jewish Characters in the Cinema of Occupied France

From my list on French theater and film during German occupation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am teaching Theater studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among my courses, “The World of Theater in the Reflection of Cinema" was a notable one. My favorite film was Children of Paradise. However, I was taken aback when a friend questioned the film's alleged anti-Semitic elements. I scrutinized the character of the Old-Clothes Man, Josué, noticing his stereotypical Jewish traits. As my research went further, I discovered the original 1942 script, where Josué played a more significant role as an overt Jewish traitor, ultimately slain by the film's hero, Deburau. This revelation prompted extensive research in Paris and Jerusalem, uncovering veiled Jewish portrayals in other French films made during the German occupation.

Yehuda's book list on French theater and film during German occupation

Yehuda Moraly Why did Yehuda love this book?

I like very much the monumental book of Julian Jackson on Vichy and the French Occupation.

Despite its length, Jackson’s book remains engaging throughout. The book delves first into the formative years of Vichy. It sheds light on the political tensions that preceded this period. It elucidates how individuals from various political backgrounds were drawn to this attractive vision of societal rejuvenation. It emphasizes the unclear limits between right and wrong during this challenging era.

The book is very important both for students and researchers.

By Julian Jackson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The French call them 'the Dark Years'...

This definitive new history of Occupied France explores the myths and realities of four of the most divisive years in French history.

Taking in ordinary people's experiences of defeat, collaboration, resistance, and liberation, it uncovers the conflicting memories of occupation which ensure that even today France continues to debate the legacy of the Vichy years.


Book cover of Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War

Richard S. Fogarty Author Of Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914-1918

From my list on France and the first World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern Europe and France and have focused my research and writing on the First World War for almost 30 years now. The war remains the “original catastrophe” of the catastrophic 20th century and continues to shape our world in decisive ways here in the 21st century.  I don’t think there are many topics that are of clearer and more urgent interest, and what fascinates me most is how every day, individual people experienced these colossal events, events that seemed only very personal and intimate to most of them at the time.  It is with this in mind that I’ve chosen the books on my list.

Richard's book list on France and the first World War

Richard S. Fogarty Why did Richard love this book?

One of the very best books in English about France during this time, Hanna mines a treasure trove of letters between a married peasant couple from southwest France to tell an intimate history of the war, of its effects on families, women, villages, men, and the countryside. War stories take place on battlefields, of course, but also in homes and in hearts. Anyone wanting to understand the experience of the Great War at the front, on the home front, and everywhere in between, should start here.

By Martha Ann,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Your Death Would Be Mine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paul and Marie Pireaud, a young peasant couple from southwest France, were newlyweds when World War I erupted. With Paul in the army from 1914 through 1919, they were forced to conduct their marriage mostly by correspondence. Drawing upon the hundreds of letters they wrote, Martha Hanna tells their moving story and reveals a powerful and personal perspective on war.

Civilians and combatants alike maintained bonds of emotional commitment and suffered the inevitable miseries of extended absence. While under direct fire at Verdun, Paul wrote with equal intensity and poetic clarity of the brutality of battle and the dietary needs…


Book cover of Birdsong

Victoria Browne Author Of Gut Feeling

From my list on vacation reads about love and friendship.

Why am I passionate about this?

Romance and chick-lit books hooked me as a young adult. It was this genre that inspired me to write. Since publishing my first book Gut Feeling in 2012 I’ve since written three chick-lit novels and a holiday rom-com screenplay. The fiction world of perfectly unperfect romance never fails.   

Victoria's book list on vacation reads about love and friendship

Victoria Browne Why did Victoria love this book?

This is the most touching love story I have ever read. I do not tend to read period dramas, and so I was hesitant to read a book set during the first world war. However, this book had me in tears so many times. I read this book over ten years ago, yet it is still my favorite love story of all time to date. Beautiful, just beautiful.

By Sebastian Faulks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Birdsong as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set before and during the Great War, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experience of the war itself.


Book cover of Blood Dark

Richard Hernaman Allen Author Of The Waterguard

From my list on which you may have never heard anything.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve gone to France often during my life. I always buy books that look interesting while I’m there, mainly to keep my French in good shape. I tend to pick authors and subjects which catch my eye. Some get discarded, but most give a fascinating and often very different perspective on life than I find in English novels and essays. 

Richard's book list on which you may have never heard anything

Richard Hernaman Allen Why did Richard love this book?

This book gripped me as I read it in French. While it’s a story of a lonely and despairing man coming apart at the seams and ending up killing himself, it also feels like a commentary on what was happening to France at that time in 1935. It’s a heavy, dark book, but I believe one of the greatest French novels ever written.

By Louis Guilloux, Laura Marris (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set during World War I, this monumental philosophical novel about human despair inspired Albert Camus' own writing and prefigured the greater existential movement.

Blood Dark tells the story of a brilliant philosopher trapped in a provincial town and of his spiraling descent into self-destruction. Cripure, as his students call him—the name a mocking contraction of Critique of Pure Reason—despises his colleagues, despairs of his charges, and is at odds with his family. The year is 1917, and the slaughter of the First World War goes on and on, with French soldiers not only dying in droves but also beginning to…


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