French history : life in occupied France (1940-1944)
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"Final Transgression"--a novel by Harriet Welty Rochefort--explains what it really meant

  Advance 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).
Publication : June

I am delighted to announce the imminent 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 purge that took place at the end of the war) and its terrible repercussions. HWR

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


Occupied France, Spring 1944:  Friends and family warn 28-year-oldSéverine 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



Speaking engagements   The region where the novel takes place
  • Monthly ZOOM Events (to be scheduled)

  • Historical Event (September : to be scheduled)

  • ParlerParlor Group - Paris, February 9, 2021

 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).

Read an excerpt   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)"

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

  • "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

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