Chanel's Riviera

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

I couldn't finish this book. The narrative (basically a group of privileged celebrities enjoying sun-drenched hedonism in the 30s) was incredibly hard to follow and the name-dropping (X married to Y but having an affair with Z, who'd spent a summer with A, etc) became pretty old pretty fast. It's a shame, I was interested in the subject matter but the writing really put me off.
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This was a very interesting exploration of the years leading up to the Second World War and then the war itself. It focused on the Riviera and the very wealthy who lived and holiday-ed there, although there is also a lot of description of Paris and Vichy France, particularly during the War. I found the mixture to be very interesting, if at times a bit unfocused. 

The book was unusual in that a lot of it was standard historical nonfiction covering a wide variety of people's stories, from the famous to the more humble, but there was also a lot of gossipy detail that I found fun although not always as impactful - largely because I did not know who a number of the socialites and magnates referenced actually were. Still, it was interesting to read the development of Vichy France and the progression of the war, particularly the highlights between the war experience of the very wealthy and of the regular citizen. I had no idea, for example, that for so many of the very wealthy even occupied France was very lush and extravagant during the War years. 

There wasn't quite as much emphasis on Chanel as I expected from the title and blurb. While she does make appearances throughout the course of the book, large swaths of the story have little to nothing to do with her, which didn't bother me but is worth noting in case that is why one picked up the book. 

All in all I quite enjoyed this one. It was a slow read, and the descriptions of the war years were difficult, but I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the read.
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Wonderful book. Cruises through the private and professional lives of the many famous people who made the French Riviera their home prior to WWII. Great descriptions of their personalities, foibles, triumphs and failures. There are many fascinating people in here that I had never heard of, even though I've read quite a bit about this era and this locale. Of course there is Chanel as a centerpoint but this is by no means only about Chanel.
It's about not just a time gone by, but a time that can't be recovered. It's about the wealthy, the foolish, the rags to riches, the royalty, the dangerous, the crazy, the patriots and the rebels.
I highly recommend it.
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"Chanel's Riviera  1930 1944".  Anne de Courcy.    A story of glamour, love and survival.  It could be categorized as history, biography & Arts and culture.  Read of the glamorous pre war days of the French Riviera, through the eyes of Coco Chanel.  Bask in the elaborate parties and lives of Hemingway, Cold Porter, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the romance of King Edward VIII and Willis Simpson, W. Sumerset Maughan,  
 along with many others.  Coco built her Villa on the Riviera in 1930 and had an apartment in Paris as well.  I'm 1933 the take over of Nazis, was far removed from those living the luxury life.  Eventually, people , especially those connected to the arts had to escape.  Coco had a German lover. Post war the Riviera life returned and libraries, galleries and museums and restaurants, hotels flourished.
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Note: there are two different versions of this book on Goodreads - I am going to put my review on both of them.

When you don't have a car for a month due to a predatory car insurance industry, you can get a LOT of reading done!!			
I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  			
From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.			

In the tradition of Calvin Tomkin’s classic Living Well is the Best Revenge, Anne de Courcy's Chanel's Riviera brings to life the French Riviera through the eyes of the legendary queen of fashion.

This is the story of an era and a place, as much as it is of a woman. The Cote d’Azur in 1938 was a wildly glamorous world poised on the edge of destruction as the rumblings of war got louder. It was a world of incredible wealth, luxury and sexual promiscuity, of people with bold-face names like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Somerset Maugham, Gloria Swanson, Joe Kennedy, Nabokov, Colette, and Winston Churchill himself. Then, in a matter of months, the Nazis swooped down and the party was over.

Coco Chanel is our entrée to this glittering dance. Born an orphan, her beauty and formidable intelligence drove men crazy, but it was her incredible talent, relentless work ethic and exquisite taste that made her an icon. Only the crème da la crème were invited to the elegant soirees at her magnificently appointed villa, La Pausa. She knew absolutely everyone and through her social and artistic connections, we learn about their scandalous affairs, listen to their brilliant gossip, and admire their inimitable style.

In the way that Laura Thompson used the Mitfords to capture 1930’s London society, de Courcy uses Chanel to make the Riviera and its denizens dazzle.

This was such a great book - we all hear of the French Riviera with Cannes and Monaco and wish that we could afford to go there.  Reading any de Courcy book is a look into a storied history - it is complex and well written and enjoyable to people who know nothing about the subject and those who do. There are some very famous people in this book so it is like reading about aunts and uncles that misbehaved in a wonderful way that almost a century later people are still talking about it. 

Chanel had a lot to do with the era but she is not alone - she is a welcome entrance into the society that glittered so brightly before being dimmed by Hitler.  Book clubs will love this book - there is so much to talk about and discuss over some excellent French wine or Evian/Perrier for those who don't imbibe!
As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it 🏖 🏖 🏖 🏖
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