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Ian Ousby's Occupation: The Ordeal of France, 1940-1944 focuses on the day-by-day life of the French people during the Nazi occupation, and how they responded to and thought about the situation.

Ousby is a British journalist, whose other books are primarily about England. Consequently, his writing style is quite accessible, despite his occasional use of French phrases. However, at times he lacks the broader perspective of a serious historian.

Occupation mainly discusses the French people who remained in France. He doesn't delve into what happened to people, such as French soldiers, Jews, and forced laborers, who were taken away. He didn't spend much time on what the Jews went through, to my surprise.

Instead, the book dwells on the attitudes of the French population through the various phases of the occupation. Ousby sometimes gave generalities about what the populace was thinking. He often quoted individuals who lived though the ordeal, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Gertrude Stein, and others.

Ousby does describe the military aspects of the invasion and the liberation of France. He also explains the politics and policies of both Vichy France and Charles de Gaulle's movement. Still, the heart of the book involved how everyday people dealt with the military and political situation.

It was a fairly good book, and not as depressing as I has feared, in part because it spent less time on the people who suffered the most. Occupation became a bit repetitive and amorphous, as it attempted the difficult task of conjuring up the general atmosphere of the time.

The book picked up towards the end, when the Maquis (which, for you Star Trek fans, was the French Resistance movement) gained strength and the Allied intervention began. The book's epilogue reviewed the punishment of collaborators and the formation of de Gaulle's government, but didn't tackle the long-term impact of the WW II trauma.

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