cover image Taking Paris: The Epic Battle for the City of Lights

Taking Paris: The Epic Battle for the City of Lights

Martin Dugard. Dutton Caliber, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-18308-3

Dugard, coauthor of the Killing series with Bill O’Reilly, delivers a stirring history of the fight to retake Paris after it fell to German forces in June 1940. Breathlessly recounting artillery duels, espionage campaigns, tank and naval battles, and bombing raids, Dugard profiles a mix of prominent and lesser-known figures, including U.S. ambassador to France William Christian Bullitt Jr.; underground operatives Virginia Hall, Jean Moulin, and Germaine Tillion; and Catholic priest and Nazi collaborator Fr. Robert Alesch, who infiltrated the French Resistance. While some theaters of combat on the road to Paris are only briefly sketched or ignored, Dugard spares no grisly detail when it comes to the persecution of the city’s Jews and the Gestapo’s torture of captured Resistance fighters. The treatment of Charles de Gaulle is more nuanced than is usual for Anglophone accounts, and Dugard provides an enlightening deep dive into the 1942 Battle of Bir Hakeim in Libya, where de Gaulle’s Free French troops first fought the Nazis “on their own.” Throughout, cinematic details evoke the despair of the city’s capture and the euphoria of its liberation, when peals of church bells and crowds singing the French national anthem celebrated the arrival of French and American armored divisions. WWII buffs will be enthralled. (Sept.)