French history : life in occupied France (1940-1944)

"Final Transgression"--a novel by Harriet Welty Rochefort--explains what it really meant

  Praise for "Final Transgression"
After three books about France and the French, Harriet Welty Rochefort has written a historical novel which takes place in France during the German Occupation of France (1940-1944).
Now available !

I am delighted to announce the publication of my historical novel, Final Transgression – One Woman’s Tragic Destiny in War-torn France. If you are interested in France, France in WW2, and a tale of love, betrayal, transgression and revenge, this book is for you. In it, I unveil a little known aspect of WW2 (the wild purges that took place at the end of the war) and its terrible repercussions. HWR


For the next events (see below), keep posted, sign up for my Zoom events and read my blog



Where to buy the book ?

The ebook and the paperblack are available on Amazon in the US in US $ ( and in France in Euros ( (if you live in France, it will be faster and cheaper).

In Paris you can find it at :

  • (Left Bank) The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore (9 rue de Médicis 6ème) in front of the Luxembourg Garden.


  • (Right Bank) Galignani Bookstore (224 rue de Rivoli 1er) and WHSmith Bookstore (248 rue de Rivoli 1er) along the Tuileries park


Read about that period in the history page of this site.



Occupied France, Spring 1944:  Friends and family warn 28-year-old Séverine Sevanot against returning from Paris to her beloved hometown in the southwest of France, an area of intense fighting where resistants hide out in the remote countryside to combat the Nazis - and their own compatriots who have chosen to collaborate with the pro-German Vichy regime.  Séverine ignores the advice. Her marriage has failed, and she has only one idea in mind: to flee Paris and re-unite with her friend and confidante Gisèle, the countess of the castle where she lived as a child, and with her best friend, Paul.

Summer 1994: To commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day, an American reporter interviews ordinary French men and women about their memories of the War. One of the interviewees is Caroline Aubry, Séverine’s sister, who is now 85. She recalls how, like millions of refugees seeking shelter from the attacks of the Wehrmacht, she and her sister and mother fled the city in May 1940. She talks of their return to a changed Paris overrun by Germans who flirt with young French girls, play oom-pah band music in the parks, impose strict rationing while they partake of the best food and wine, and arrest and torture resistants. She ends her reminiscences with D-Day and the joy of liberation after years of daily anxiety and deprivation.

What she leaves out of her story is a personal tragedy she has never revealed, even to her son Félix. All Félix knows is that Séverine died during the war. No one has ever told him the cause of her death, and Felix learned from an early age that the subject was taboo.

But he is about to learn the truth. The interview has unsettled Caroline, and she realizes that it’s time for Félix to see the fictionalized tale she has written about the events that changed her life—and to reveal a secret that will change his. She wants him to know how civil war turns childhood friends into enemies, how rumor and suspicion become fact, and how summary justice is applied in times of war. 

Based on a true story, this is the tale of an ordinary woman living in extraordinary times.  The end of the war in France was a time for settling scores. Séverine unwittingly hands the hangman’s noose to her enemies in one egregious act—her final transgression.


  • "Harriet Welty Rochefort’s historically well-grounded Final Transgression starts with rural tranquility and accelerates to a shocking end as a young woman’s high spirits entangle her in the turmoil of Nazi-occupied France. A vigorous and compelling tale." -- Robert O. Paxton, author of Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order
  • "In her elegant and often moving book, Final Transgression, Harriet Welty Rochefort looks beyond the political and military headlines of World War II to probe individual lives and uncover how the German occupation of France poisoned friendships, shattered loves and forged bitter memories better forgotten." -- Alan Riding, author of And The Show Went On: Cultural life in Nazi-occupied Paris)
  • In this gripping, beautifully written novel about love and betrayal, Harriet Welty Rochefort vividly portrays the ambiguity and complexity of trying to survive in Nazi-occupied France, where things are never quite what they seem. The story of Séverine Sevanot, a beautiful, headstrong young woman who returns to her hometown in southwest France only to be swept up in the violent score-settling of resistance fighters there, will grab your attention and keep you thinking for a long time to come." -- Lynne Olson, New York Times bestselling author of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War

  • "In Final Transgression, Harriet Welty Rochefort has written a compelling novel of the cultural and political trials undergone by France during the first half of the 20th century. Her deep knowledge of France and intermixing of the events and the texture that defined the 1930s and 1940s—clothes, behavior, decor, everyday life in general—engage while subtly instructing the reader. Final Transgression succeeds admirably in edifying while moving its readers." -- Ronald C. Rosbottom, author of  When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light under German Occupation 1940-1944
  • "This story lays bare the ugliness of war and what people resort to in wartime, but in fleshing out her characters with sympathy for human frailty, the author enables the reader to put himself or herself in their shoes.  Final Transgression does a wonderful job of unraveling the complicated web of local factions that clashed under the Nazi occupation of France and the hotheaded heroine seemed almost doomed from the start - there were times I wanted to chime in and steer her away from her own actions as she hurtled headlong towards her fate. A great read." -- Lilianne Milgrom, artist and author of L'Origine

  • "With her deep knowledge of France and the French, Harriet Welty gives readers a fresh tale about the endlessly fascinating period of French history, the second world war. Through a cast of characters ranging from local nobility to a family of caretakers, Final Transgression gives an intimate portrait of French society, with its strict codes and class resentments. Set between Paris and a small town in the southwest of France, the story draws the reader into the intrigues of the war and its devastating effects on everyone, even the many who just wanted to get through it. The secrets that this murky time generated touch the lives of generations to come. Harriet Welty paints this complex tableau with a fine brush and a great deal of humanity.  " --Mary Fleming, author of The Art of Regret and  Someone Else
  • "In a taut tale of love, war and politics, Harriet Welty Rochefort's gripping novel of entangled families and deep friendships brings powerfully to life Paris and the Perigord, before and during WW2 and the Occupation. " -- Martin Walker, author of the Bruno detective series 

Did you see the series "A French Village"?

Do you know this immensely popular TV series about a French village under the Occupation of France by the Germans in World War 2?

If you are one of its many fans, you will love Harriet’s book, Final Transgression which is also about life in a French village under the Occupation with its good guys and bad guys and especially and foremost about her heroine Séverine, an intelligent and alluring young woman whose main interest in life is to ignore the war raging around her and focus uniquely on her own personal life and her overwhelming desire for love and a baby. Séverine is loved by three men: her husband, a former WW1 ace pilot who becomes a collaborationist in WW2; her lover, a Gaullist Resistant; and her childhood friend, a Communist Resistant. She is remarkably unloved by Paul’s snobbish mother, a woman she manages to rise above and ignore –– almost. She is mentored and raised by Gisele, the countess and lady of the castle, who teaches her how to act in a high society she was not born into. In spite of this breeding, she doesn’t always remember the lessons. Her total indifference to the events around her will lead her into a trap of her own making in the village that she loves and has grown up in.

Speaking engagements   The region where the novel takes place

Meet the author at a ZOOM Event (presentation of the book + Q & A) :

Past events : June 10 (Iowa), June 18 , June 19, June 20, June 21, June 30, Sept.12 (Denver), Oct.13 (American Library, Paris), Oct.17 (Alliance Française, Memphis, TN,), Oct.30 (WashingtonDC Politics & Prose), Nov.6 (Book Club Arizona) American Women's Group, Paris (November 9,) Alliance Française, Washington, DC (November 14) Alliance Française USA (November 16), Anglo-American Press Association, Paris (November 23, 2020) Anglo-American Press Association, Paris, (Dec.10, 2020), A Parisian Literary Christmas, (Dec.13, 2020) ,Toastmasters Intl/Crossroasd Storytellers (January 9, 2021), Alliance Française, Dublin, (January 19, 2021) Book Club Wellesley in Paris (January 31, 2021) Assoc.of Am.Wives of European (AAWE) (February 10, 2021) Adrian Leeds Group, Paris (February 9, 2021), Friday Tour Group, Paris (February 18, 2021), Alliance Française Glasgow (Wednesday, April 7, 2021)Alliance Française/Dublin (FB Live, April26, 2021), Alliance Française Cambridge UK (April 23, 2021), Princeton Club New York (July 13), Alliance Francaise USA (August 28) ,Charleston Literary Society S.C. (Sept. 9)

  • Friday Tour Group, Paris (October 14, 2021, 5 pm Paris time)

More to come....

Live a new experience ! An evening/afternoon not only with the author but also with an historian who will put the book in its historical context. Click for more details on the Harriet's Historical Event



  • Read an interview of Harriet about her, her books, her life in France and the French, by Judy McMahon, for My French Life (Melbourne, Oct.2020)

  • and a comprehensive interview in the excellent blog of an Iowan journalist (, Dec.2020)


 The Dordogne region,  about 100 miles northeast of Bordeaux in the southwest of France, is a beautiful area with a rich history and culture. It is also known for its culinary specialties:   walnuts, truffles, confit de canard (preserved duck) and foie gras.
Château d'Essendieras, St.Médard d'Excideuil, now a golf course.

The Dordogne also boasts the oldest pre-history sites in France (the Lascaux grotto and the Cro-Magnon site in Les Eyzies to name but two).  More than 1000 castles dot a stunning landscape of forests, rivers and valleys.  The Chateau d’Essendieras is but one example of the legions of magnificent castles in this region. In many villages the castle is a part of village life, as it is in the novel Final Transgression (read above).

Readers' comments and press

  • Final Transgression : Book of the Month of Eye Prefer Paris website (June 2020)
  • "Final Transgression is a haunting read, a book about love and betrayal, and the impact of class and war on a life's trajectory. It would make a great book club selection. –– “  Bronte22

  • "Well written! Learned about a phase of WWII I never knew existed. Very surprising ending that one cannot guess but does lead into the Book’s title. I would highly recommend this novel to everyone.”––– DAT

  • "A beautiful intelligent young woman, through character, courage and conviction, rises from her modest status to the center of a magical life in Paris. And then . . . . things happen. This story will enchant its readers with its intimate view of French culture between the wars and then sober them with its account of the Dantean struggle for wartime survival...It will not be possible to finally put this book down without reflecting on what happens to a great country when it collapses and imagining what it takes to gain once more its place in the sun.”    Bob Pearson,\

  • " A heart touching love story in a beautifully depicted historical context.”   --- Tilly Richard,
  • This novel is a tour de force of historical fiction at its best, a complex story of the loves, war and politics of ordinary people that is both instructive and moving.” –– My French Life, September  15,  2020 

  • Final Transgression deals with darker, sometimes taboo subjects, but it is also derived from Welty Rochefort’s bicultural life  besides telling us in vivid detail about life during the Occupationit offers a view of French mores, including the rigid social hierarchy and codes of marital infidelity, and provides valuable insight into the complicated French psyche that we expats spend our lives trying to decipher. ––Paris Update by Cathy Nolan, September 9, 2020

  • FINAL TRANSGRESSION is Harriet Welty Rochefort’s first novel and she has done well in capturing the historical context and the characters. The village of The Village Français series could have been the setting for Harriet’s story.–– FUSAC, September 2, 2020

  • I am halfway through your new book and I just wanted you to know that I LOVE it! Your classic writing style and the story are exceptional. Sad to think I’ll finish the book soon! -- Andrea Rose Rousseaux, South Carolina

This site is under construction    

To pages on other books by Welty Rochefort : "Joie de Vivre", "French Fried", French Toast and "French Toast (in French)"

To related pages : Life in occupied France, Harriet's Paris Diary, intercultural differences, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • " Final Transgression. One Woman 's Tragic Destiny in War-torn France, Understand France, Paris, 2020"
  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)

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