Violette Nozière

Sarah Maza

Because my daughter has lived in Paris, my interest is always attracted by things that relate to that endlessly fascinating city. I have a growing shelf of books on Paris, Parisians and other French subjects. Most of those books have rewarded the interest I took in them, but none more than this one about Violette Nozière, an only child who poisoned her mother and father nearly 80 years ago. It was a sensational case that gripped the imagination of the French of that period. Much like our own Lizzie Borden case about a generation earlier, the Nozière case raised questions troubling to the generally accepted notions of familial love and devotion. If a girl who had been lovingly raised could poison her parents, then the world was less ordered and far more unstable than people may have wished to believe. The Nozière case also brought into focus the barriers of class and the changing sexual mores that were transforming French culture. Sarah Maza, a professor of history at Northwestern, has provided readers with a well-researched and thoroughly readable account of French culture as revealed in a generally forgotten murder case. Even people whose daughters don’t live in France are likely to find it of interest.