Synopses & Reviews
"Sarah Maza has written a vivid, gripping and clear-eyed account of the celebrated Violette Noziand#232;re case, which captivated French society in the 1930s. A bold and imaginative story, Violette Noziand#232;re opens an unexpected and revealing window onto interwar Parisian life." and#151; Colin Jones, author of Paris: Biography of a City
and#147;Sarah Maza's absorbing new book on Violette Noziand#232;re--flapper, fantasist, and perpetrator of one of the most sordid and sensational French homicides of the 1930sand#151;is a scholarly 'true crime' tale of the most intelligent sort. Why might a seemingly respectable little mademoiselle from a 'nice' bourgeois family want to poison her maman et papa at the breakfast table? Alongside her riveting account of the crime and its aftermath, Maza investigates the various pathologiesand#151;familial, social, economic, cultural, psychosexualand#151;that may have figured in the mayhem. (At her trial Noziand#232;re claimed, among other things, that her father had sexually abused her for years.) The result is both a fascinating case historyand#151;Greek tragedy rewritten as seedy policierand#151;and a chilling glimpse into the less salubrious aspects of French lower middle-class life between the wars.and#8221; and#151; Terry Castle, author of The Professor
"One of those rare and sophisticated works that tells a gripping story while evoking a complex historical period. There exist very few cultural histories of the interwar years."and#151;Carolyn Dean, author of Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust
and#147;Sarah Maza's book tells an arresting story that deftly combines conventional social history with a subtle analysis of gender and culture. Using all the arts of the best storytellers, she is careful not to give too much away, and it is only with time and a remarkable conclusion that we realize that Violette Noziand#232;re is no ordinary tale.and#8221; and#151; Ruth Harris, author of Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century
"An academic history with a pulpy noir heart, Maza's account of Violette NoziÃ¨re, who at age 19 poisoned her parents and whose case captured Paris's imagination, is also the story of a socially unsettled interwar France. Maza, a professor of history at Northwestern (The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750 1850), uses the NoziÃ¨re affair to examine social mobility; working-class Paris neighborhoods like the NoziÃ¨res'; department-store fashion that allowed an upwardly aspiring girl like Violette to dress fashionably; crime journalism; surrealism (AndrÃ© Breton sympathized with Violette during her trial). Yet the story of the depressed, angry Violette whose father likely molested her, and whose 'drama-prone, overbearing' mother survived the poisoning to become her daughter's most vocal opponent keeps the book beating in time. Reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson trial, the NoziÃ¨re affair reflected the anxieties of its society: the horror of parricide paired with later accusations of incest presented a 'troubling ambiguity' that the public struggled to disentangle. Fluently written and thoroughly researched, Maza contains 'a whole constellation of contemporary experience' in the wrenching story of the NoziÃ¨res. Photos. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
On an August evening in 1933, in a quiet, working-class neighborhood in Paris, eighteen-year-old Violette Noziand#232;re gave her mother and father glasses of barbiturate-laced and#147;medication,and#8221; which she told them had been prescribed by the family doctor; one of her parents died, the other barely survived. Almost immediately Violetteand#8217;s act of and#147;double parricideand#8221; became the most sensational private crime of the French interwar eraand#151;discussed and debated so passionately that it was compared to the Dreyfus Affair. Why would the beloved only child of respectable parents do such a thing? To understand the motives behind this crime and the reasons for its extraordinary impact, Sarah Maza delves into the abundant case records, re-creating the daily existence of Parisians whose lives were touched by the affair. This compulsively readable book brilliantly evokes the texture of life in 1930s Paris. It also makes an important argument about French society and culture while proposing new understandings of crime and social class in the years before World War II.
About the Author
Sarah Maza is Jane Long Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Northwestern University. She is the author of many books including award winners Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Cand#233;land#232;bres of Prerevolutionary France (UC Press) and The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750-1850.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. A Neighborhood in Paris
2. Interwar Girlhoods
3. Violetteand#8217;s Family Romance
4. A Crime in Late Summer
5. The Accusation
6. Letters to the Judge
7. A Culture of Crime
8. A Water Lily on a Heap of Coal
9. The Trial