Expert’s view

Justine Picardie: my five best books

The writer and journalist chooses her five favourite books about women, fashion and the Second World War

Justine Picardie’s new book, Miss Dior (Faber £25) – about the designer’s sister, a heroine of the Resistance – is out now.

Paris Was Yesterday by Janet Flanner (1934)

Flanner began writing her “Letter from Paris” for The New Yorker in 1925, and this anthology takes the reader up to the outbreak of the War in 1939. I first read Flanner while researching my biography of Coco Chanel, and when I was writing Miss Dior, I immersed myself yet again in these evocative vignettes of Paris, the city of light in its golden years between two World Wars. Virago £10.99

Dior by Dior by Christian Dior (1956)

Christian Dior wrote his masterly memoir the year before his death from a heart attack at the age of 52, when he was still at the height of his fame. This English translation by Antonia Fraser appeared in 1957, and it captures his inimitable voice with panache and style. V&A £8.99

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba (2016)

A gripping account of the German Occupation of Paris, seen through the eyes of dozens of different women – whether they chose to collaborate with the Nazis, to risk their lives in the cause of the Resistance, or decided simply to keep their heads down, in the daily struggle to survive. W&N, £9.99

Paris After the Liberation by Antony Beevor & Artemis Cooper (1994)

A remarkable tapestry of history that draws together the tumultuous period from 1944 to 1949, in the aftermath of the Occupation. We’re whisked between couture salons and communist gatherings by two authors who make the liveliest of guides. Penguin £10.99

A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm (2005)

During the Second World War, 41 female agents were sent by Britain’s Special Operations Executive to operate behind enemy lines in France. This book traces the story of 12 young women who did not return from their missions, and the ensuing search to discover their fate in German concentration camps. Abacus £10.99

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