Cover Image: Chanel's Riviera

Chanel's Riviera

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Member Reviews

As a thank, you to Netgalley and the publisher St. Martin’s press for a copy of Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy I present this review. The setting for the non-fiction novel depicts the French Riviera during the late 1930s before the beginning of World War 2. It shows the momentum the riviera experienced as artists (ex. Picasso), celebrities (ex. Gloria Swanson, Cecil Beaton), and public officials “The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joseph P. Kennedy flocked to this warm, and chic getaway. At the heart of this destination was  Gabrielle or Coco Chanel. These individuals played an important part in her life and she in theirs. An important part of who she was depended entirely on her friendships and the need for independence. One aspect of the novel that I appreciated was its ability to explore the creation of Coco Chanel's now-iconic perfume, little black dress, and the impact that society had on their creation. The novel was fast-paced and held my interest. If you are a fan of Coco Chanel, non-fiction, and historical memoirs I suggest this novel. I give this novel a strong four out of five stars on Goodreads.
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I was really excited about reading this book after reading her book about American heiresses marrying into the aristocracy. I struggled with this book because it seemed like the author to get her point across. The author focused on Coco Chanel’s life in the Riviera. However, she also discussed other important that lived on the Riviera. The author also went into tangents that did not really focus on the subject on hand. Overall, I thought this book was very disorganized. I still recommend this for those that are interested in Coco Chanel.
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Thank you Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Anne de Courcy for free e-ARC in return of my honest review. 

Disclosure; I love Chanel. I love Coco Chanel as a woman and as a designer. She was a brave woman and extremely talented designer. Therefore, my review might be biased. 

Chanel's Riviera is about Riviera at the time when Chanel owned La Pausa, right before the WWII. Imagine Great Gatsby's parties with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Somerset Maugham, Chanel, Gloria Swanson, Joe Kennedy, Nabokov, Colette, and Winston Churchill himself.  The book is not about Chanel and her life at Riviera per se, it is more about Riviera itself with her inhabitants at that time, which were quite famous and some still are. I believe it is a very interesting angle to see the history through their eyes but not that many.  At times, I felt confused because many people were introduced at once without further follow up. 

Basic historical timeline holds its place, however, narrative itself did not feel structured at all. One story comes to another that might be not clearly related. I understand why atrocities in Paris and Vichy collaboration were included, at the same time, it did not really connect with me. If Anne de Courcy followed Chanel to Ritz years (which are slightly mentioned), it would have made sense for me personally. 

Also, the speculation about Chanel trying to negotiate peace with Churchill and her German lover out of boredom is utterly ridiculous. One may entertain this thought in a fiction novel, but not non-fiction. I will not deny it, I rolled my eyes reading these pages. 

Overall, I liked this book. I was looking for a little bit more of Chanel's life at Riviera, may be if her collections were inspired by this sunny place or more details about her love affairs. However, I would not say I was disappointed. 

If you are looking for WWII action, this book is not for you. If you love fashion and magazine gossip, that would be the one to pick up.
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Anne de Courcy is one of my very favorite historians, and I'm constantly amazed at the way that she effortlessly brings the past to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey to the French riviera of the 1930s, populated with fascinating people. Highly, highly recommended!
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Coco Chanel is one of those people whose work I've felt conflicted about admiring (and, in the case of my favorite Chanel 19 perfume, buying). Amazing, visionary designer and businesswoman... and Nazi collaborator. Problematic. After reading this book, I still feel more or less the same. The author does not try to gloss over or justify Chanel's actions, but does offer a glimpse into the difficult circumstances of her background that might have made her cutthroat enough to succeed and callous enough to collaborate with the Nazis. Yet she could also be a generous and magnanimous person to her friends, particularly the Riviera set the book also features. After the many tales of decadence among famous names from Wallis and David to Winston, the book shifts focus to the atrocities of the war, and the treatment of Jews in particular. It's a difficult story to read, but an important one to remember.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a digital ARC for the purpose of an unbiased review.
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Anne de Courcy brings a vivid portrait of the great designer Chanel, during the years that she wined and dined spending her summers in the French Riviera.

This is not a biography of Chanel and her design empire. If you are looking for that, you need to go elsewhere. Instead we find ourselves living in the highlights and lowlights of her decadent lifestyle from the 30's to just after 1944...summertime living in her private Villa; La Pausa.

There is a huge amount of famous name dropping in this delicious read... and they are THE richest and most glamorous of the times; Monsieur Jean Cocteau, Sir Winston Churchill, Igor Stravinsky, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor ( that woman!). Not to be left out we meet Coco's infamous rival Madame Elsa Schiaparelli, the great Italian designer and sworn enemy.

This book is decadent, delightfully gossipy and absolutely delicious for those who want to know how the other half lived before the war changed it all.

And the Riviera changed with War. Dark times with horrors descended, the glitz and glamour became survival and evacuations...Nazis brought the horrors of their deeds to the coast...life was irrevocably changed.
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to NetGalley, St.Martins Press and the author Ms. Anne de Courcy for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "Chanel's Riviera, Glamour, Decadence and Survival in Peace and War". The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.
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The big problem with this book is that de Courcy tried to put into one volume two different stories that really didn't go together. 

On the one hand, there is a gossipy account of the many people who lived on the Riviera in the 1930s & '40s. People pop up briefly in several chapters. It's very entertaining but disjointed.

On the other hand, there is a biography, sort of, of Coco Chanel. This is hardly new ground. It takes up much of the book and has the same high level of detail as the other parts. Unhappily Chanel's life does not stand up well to this scrutiny, she ends up looking pretty selfish & almost monstrous.

Her reader would be better served if she had gotten good illustrations and written two books.
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Fun gossip joy the Riviera before and during the war .The rich they fabulous their lifestyles romance Chanel and all the other fabulous travelers.A fun delicious and at the same time eye opening read of a world most of us knew nothing about.#netgalley#st.martinsbooks
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Such a carefree time, the Cote D'Azur in the 1930s was a haven for the rich and famous. As Hitler closed in on France, this lifestyle was eroded away and the struggle to survive was a most difficult task. From collaboration to heroism, this is an interesting look at the lives of many of the people affected by WWII.
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Chanel's Riviera by Anne de Courcy is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early December.

The goings-on, trysts, and outfittings around and at Chanel’s home, La Pausa, during this 14-year timeframe. It's mostly dainty and frivolous during the pre-war years in the writing style of a glossy tabloid, while covering how the Riviera responded to events, like the Great Depression, then the rise of the Nazi party, air raid attacks and the capture of Paris, influx of war refugees, and intense rationing. In response, Chanel donated to charity causes, usually orphanages, anonymously, before being labeled as an enemy to Germany, due to interactions with Winston and Mrs Churchill, assisting friends and friends of friends all over Europe, and having a German lover in the military.
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Chanel's Riviera is entertaining and easy to read with many captivating facts about Côte d'Azur and Paris during the 1930s through late 1944.

The novel is divided into two parts, the first half describes Coco's life and rise to power, her powerful friends, affairs. In this part of the book, the reader is introduced to multiple high society figures that at one point or another were a big part of Chanel's life. Not knowing much about Coco's life in general, this book has shed lite on her business and love lives. It's short, well detailed. I've learned many interesting facts about the days of the Chanel empire and the designer herself.

The second part of the novel discusses the life of Coco and her circle of friends during the war, their fall of power, and struggles. The novel covers many lives of famous and non-famous people, as a comparison between the social classes and roles it played in their survival.

The novel was well written, with many interesting facts. I found myself enjoying the life of Riviera prior to WWII as it had more new info for me rather than the years of the war. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press publisher for a free and advanced copy of the book.
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I’ve always wanted to know more about Coco Chanel the fashion and perfume maven, and this was a good overall look at her life, at least during an important part of it that tells of her and how she did business and lived her life. I enjoyed learning about the various artists and writers that she was friends with and socialized with. It shows the extreme opulence of the party lifestyle along the Riviera of the rich and famous against the backdrop of the rumblings of Germany and Hitler arming up for WWII.

Coco built her main home on the Riviera, La Pausa, and spent most of her summer there with her latest lover. She didn’t care to be tied down or controlled by a husband. It’s also filled with information on lots of other public people like the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali, and many others of the 
time. I found it fairly enjoyable.Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Anne de Courcy, and the publisher.
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You know when you have a good feeling about a book just by reading the synopsis? I had that this time. I wanted to know more about the Riviera's pre-war years and after WWII, but I never found a book that talked about that without using the setting as a prop to talk about someone else and forgetting about the Riviera altogether.⁠
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Anne de Courcy did an amazing job; she researched meticulously facts and events I had no clue they even happened, and let me just say that the idea to not make Chanel the sole protagonist but just a "main character" with a supporting cast of equally incredible people was a brilliant one. I'm all for political and social anecdotes, give me all the gossip!!⁠
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It also helped and made me love it even more that Chanel is not painted as a saint that had nothing to do with the Nazi regime, I never felt like the author was trying to defend her like I've seen so many authors do in the past.⁠
The author described the devastating effects of the German invasion of France and the occupation that followed, the struggle of the people and the impact it had on a place as decadent, wealthy and full of influential people like the Riviera in such an engaging way I felt like I was glued to my kindle. Only pros can do that with history books.⁠
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Last but not least, ELSA SCHIAPARELLI made a brief appearance here and there, but she's a Queen, and seeing her thrive while Coco was bitter about her whole existence made me SO happy. ⁠
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An interesting and gossipy read about the Riviera before and during the war years and how it became a haven from a world in disarray. It's not really about Chanel, though, so be forewarned.
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Calling this book Chanel’s Riviera is certainly a selling point, as people do love to read about the famed couturiere, her many lovers, and her glamorous lifestyle. But the title of this dishy period history by Anne de Courcy is a misnomer. It’s not a biography of Chanel, and it’s not about the French Riviera per se, because de Courcy writes about life in Paris too, for example. It’s a breezy account of the many well-to-do personalities who flocked to the Riviera prior to and during World War II. On the one hand, it is interesting to see just how many well-known people lived on the Riviera during this time, and to get a sense of their creative endeavors, or how they lived. On the other, the account was so breezy, I felt that I never truly got to know anyone de Courcy mentioned very well.  While I did sense the author’s excitement for these people in this place and time, I feel like the book would have benefitted from a stricter focus on some of these figures, and not attempting to write about all of them. For example, I enjoyed reading about the architect Eileen Gray, who is little known, but certainly influential in her field. But I would have liked to have seen more about Gerald and Sara Murphy, as one could argue that it was truly their Riviera, not Chanel’s. Aside and apart from that, it is an easy read, likely to appeal to people curious about the figures and cultural history of this period.
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This is a fascinating book, but it's not really about Chanel as much as the Riviera as a haven for European Jews. Chanel seems almost a minor character in the book, and what we do learn about her is not very favorable.
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Per the author, Anne de Courcy, this book isn't intended to be a definitive biography of Coco Chanel. It is more of a biography of a place—the French Riviera before and during the Second World War. Because the Riviera was such a hot spot, it attracted the rich and famous and infamous, including Chanel and her many lovers. De Courcy covers a broad range of characters such as Winston Churchill, Aldous Huxley, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and a number of Americans, such as the Singer Sewing Machine family—and all their hedonistic lifestyles. The writing on much of this was so superficial as to be skimmable and the number of names dropped so copious that I found it difficult to keep track of them—they seemed like lists of the well-do-do.

The second half of the book saves the first half as De Courcy gave me some insights into pre-WWII France and the “impregnable” Maginot line as she details the treatment of Jewish immigrants as they fled from Nazi Germany. Not until World War Two actually begins, does the writing settle into a more cohesive story. De Courcy describes the devastating effects of German occupation on the lives of refugees, Jews, expatriates and other foreigners along with French citizens on either side of the conflict.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
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The period of history between the two World Wars is one of my favorites and when a book not only covers that time but includes Coco Chanel, well it's one I want to read. She was a remarkable woman. As the Mother Superior said of her - "that unfortunate waif, an illegitimate child born in the poorhouse". Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel was a force to be reckoned with in a setting that became larger than life with the very, very rich and the very, very famous joining her on the stage. It was a sparkling hedonistic life they all led until their world came up against the beginnings of what became World war II and its many horrors.
So, this book starts with the foundations of The Riviera - a pleasant story and moves on to its ugly story, one that is distressing and makes the reader uncomfortable. Such is history; the beautiful and the horrific. It's real and I came away from reading it with new information and a desire to go to the library to learn more. That, in my mind, is the sign of a well written book.
My thanks to the publisher St. Martin's and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This book was about two things: the life of Coco Chanel and the life of people, mostly expats and wealthy, in the Riviera in the time between the World Wars and during WWII. On the life of Chanel, it felt rather underdeveloped, as not enough time was dedicated in this book to really understanding Chanel or explaining her life. She would appear or be thrown in at random points, so you never really knew what was happening to her or why she was included in this book. On the situation in the French Riviera, it felt very strange to be reading about only the lives of expats, even those who stayed through the war, as I did not particularly care about the specific hospital where random English nurse Elsie Gladman wrote or other specific people, as much as I would have liked a general descritipion of life in the Riviera in these times. I did find it interesting to learn about how the Italian soldiers acted, particularly in their safeguarding of the Jewish population, but I do not feel that the life of Jews, French or foreign, in the Riviera was focussed on. At the crux of it, this book was doing too much and not using enough sources or organization to create an informative, cohesive book on life in the Riviera nor a biography of the life of Chanel at this time.
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I sort of chose this book by mistake…  I thought I was requesting a historical fiction novel, but instead I got a full on history book! But that’s ok, sometimes it’s good to branch out of your comfort zone.  I love this time period and I have wanted to learn more about Coco Chanel, and what a more glamorous setting than in the French Riviera!  All of my favorites, including the Fitzgeralds,  make an appearance. I loved learning more about her relationship with fellow designer, Elsa Schiaparelli. They seemed to have such different aesthetics, it’s no surprise they were bitter rivals. I also couldn’t get enough of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, what a love story. To abdicate the throne for the love of a woman!  Swoon!  My favorite parts of the book were, obviously, the decadences before the war.  But if you are interested in how the war played out, it is there for you.
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