Sudden Courage: Youth in France Confront the Germans, 1940–1945

Custom House. Aug. 2019. 336p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062470027. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062470058. HIST
Rosbottom (Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of French and European Studies, Amherst Coll.; When Paris Went Dark) has written an exceptional account about the French Resistance. His melding of foreign conquest and adolescence offers a unique perspective of what happened in France during the Occupation. This book starts with how the French underestimated the Germans as an existential threat. French youth were not exposed to this threat until the Wehrmacht rolled into villages and cities, and Rosbottom deftly uses firsthand accounts to describe how they reacted to foreigners. The hardship of occupation altered family structures, with teenagers often becoming caretakers. This role necessitated a choice between becoming fascists or going underground. For Jews and Communists, there was no choice. According to Rosbottom, resistance included not only large acts of opposition, such as hiding Jewish friends or creating weapon caches, but also smaller ones such as mocking German news propaganda or shooting spit wads at German soldiers.
VERDICT Highly recommended for Francophiles and those interested in World War II; this work adds to World War II and French historiography.

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