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Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944

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In this captivating narrative, Chanel’s Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur during a period that saw the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the twentieth century. The Cote d’Azur in 1938 was a world of wealth, luxury, and extravagance, inhabited by a sparkling cast of characters including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joseph P. Kennedy, Gloria In this captivating narrative, Chanel’s Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur during a period that saw the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the twentieth century. The Cote d’Azur in 1938 was a world of wealth, luxury, and extravagance, inhabited by a sparkling cast of characters including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joseph P. Kennedy, Gloria Swanson, Colette, the Mitfords, Picasso, Cecil Beaton, and Somerset Maugham. The elite flocked to the Riviera each year to swim, gamble, and escape from the turbulence plaguing the rest of Europe. At the glittering center of it all was Coco Chanel, whose very presence at her magnificently appointed villa, La Pausa, made it the ultimate place to be. Born an orphan, her beauty and formidable intelligence allured many men, but it was her incredible talent, relentless work ethic, and exquisite taste that made her an icon. But this wildly seductive world was poised on the edge of destruction. In a matter of months, the Nazis swooped down and the glamour of the pre-war parties and casinos gave way to the horrors of evacuation and the displacement of thousands of families during World War II. From the bitter struggle to survive emerged powerful stories of tragedy, sacrifice, and heroism. Enriched by original research and de Courcy’s signature skill, Chanel’s Riviera brings the experiences of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life.


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In this captivating narrative, Chanel’s Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur during a period that saw the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the twentieth century. The Cote d’Azur in 1938 was a world of wealth, luxury, and extravagance, inhabited by a sparkling cast of characters including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joseph P. Kennedy, Gloria In this captivating narrative, Chanel’s Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur during a period that saw the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the twentieth century. The Cote d’Azur in 1938 was a world of wealth, luxury, and extravagance, inhabited by a sparkling cast of characters including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Joseph P. Kennedy, Gloria Swanson, Colette, the Mitfords, Picasso, Cecil Beaton, and Somerset Maugham. The elite flocked to the Riviera each year to swim, gamble, and escape from the turbulence plaguing the rest of Europe. At the glittering center of it all was Coco Chanel, whose very presence at her magnificently appointed villa, La Pausa, made it the ultimate place to be. Born an orphan, her beauty and formidable intelligence allured many men, but it was her incredible talent, relentless work ethic, and exquisite taste that made her an icon. But this wildly seductive world was poised on the edge of destruction. In a matter of months, the Nazis swooped down and the glamour of the pre-war parties and casinos gave way to the horrors of evacuation and the displacement of thousands of families during World War II. From the bitter struggle to survive emerged powerful stories of tragedy, sacrifice, and heroism. Enriched by original research and de Courcy’s signature skill, Chanel’s Riviera brings the experiences of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life.

30 review for Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    3.5 stars! In a nutshell, half of this book is about Coco Chanel’s glitzy, glamorous Riviera at a time when the Kennedys, Picasso, the Duke and Duchess Windsor, and many others were visiting and rubbing elbows with her. Chanel was a beauty and drop dead intelligent, which inspired awe in those who interacted with her. That said, the book shows other, darker sides to Chanel. These other sides were pertinent to what was happening all around her. Meanwhile, the other half is about the Nazis who were 3.5 stars! In a nutshell, half of this book is about Coco Chanel’s glitzy, glamorous Riviera at a time when the Kennedys, Picasso, the Duke and Duchess Windsor, and many others were visiting and rubbing elbows with her. Chanel was a beauty and drop dead intelligent, which inspired awe in those who interacted with her. That said, the book shows other, darker sides to Chanel. These other sides were pertinent to what was happening all around her. Meanwhile, the other half is about the Nazis who were about to destroy much more than this glamorous world. The Riviera was filled with refugees and those displaced from the war and seeking safety and asylum. Overall, this is a well-written book, and I soaked up all the facts about this region and these starkly contrasting times in history. I received a gifted copy from the publisher. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    3.5 stars The author is pretty upfront with how this book isn't intended to be some definitive biography of Coco Chanel. There are other books out there that cover her entire life whereas this book has some details about how she got her start in the fashion and perfume industries but it primarily focuses on what was going on in her life the decade leading up to World War 2 as well as the war itself. This book also provides a look at France and in particular the French Riviera during that time per 3.5 stars The author is pretty upfront with how this book isn't intended to be some definitive biography of Coco Chanel. There are other books out there that cover her entire life whereas this book has some details about how she got her start in the fashion and perfume industries but it primarily focuses on what was going on in her life the decade leading up to World War 2 as well as the war itself. This book also provides a look at France and in particular the French Riviera during that time period as well. While the book is filled with many interesting facts, there are so many people covered in the book to the point in which it was difficult keeping track of everyone. (It was especially challenging to remember who was sleeping with who. My gosh, did anyone back then not carry on an affair?) Sure, there were some well known names like Churchill or writer Aldous Huxley getting mentions but there were also plenty of people I had never heard of before and it's unfortunate the writing style with bouncing back and forth made it challenging to keep up. Even though I got frustrated at times while reading I am glad I got to learn a little more about some of the things that were going on in France during this time period. I do wish this had been more of a smoother read but at least the info was interesting. I won a free advance copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway but was not obligated to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    I found this disjointed and misleadingly titled: Chanel isn't the focus and neither is the Riviera as much of the second half is taken up with Paris during the Occupation. So much of the information is well known and widely available elsewhere, and the whole thing feels stitched together of off-cuts resulting in repetitions of phrasing and matter. Chanel's difficult childhood, for example, makes an appearance towards the end rather than at the beginning, and there's a superficiality about the wh I found this disjointed and misleadingly titled: Chanel isn't the focus and neither is the Riviera as much of the second half is taken up with Paris during the Occupation. So much of the information is well known and widely available elsewhere, and the whole thing feels stitched together of off-cuts resulting in repetitions of phrasing and matter. Chanel's difficult childhood, for example, makes an appearance towards the end rather than at the beginning, and there's a superficiality about the whole book. Lists of names are dropped repeatedly (Hemingway, Picasso, the Fitzgeralds, Diaghilev, Nabokov, Thomas Mann, Duff Cooper) with no further mentions of these people, there's a summary of the Edward and Wallis Simpson drama long after they've already been introduced as a married couple, and there are some awkward instances of fat-shaming that give this an old-fashioned feel. I'd say this is a good primer if you know pretty much nothing about the 1930s-40s in France, though it still requires a firm edit to smooth out the timeline and get rid of the repetition. A better book about the Riviera during the first part of the twentieth century is The Riviera Set; and on the Occupation, particularly from a female perspective, Les Parisiennes. Verdict: Disappointing, and I only skim-read to the end.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    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 fo 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. First published on my WordPress blog as seen here: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I received this as a goodreads giveaway. The book looks at the Riviera prior to WWII and throughout the course of the war. As evidence by the title, the work focuses on Coco Chanel and uses her experiences and life to analyze the Riveria. The book is half on Chanel and half on the Riviera during World War II. While the focus on Chanel had merit, the author did spend an good deal of the early part of the book discussing Chanel's rise and the societal happenings in the Riviera. The book is best whe I received this as a goodreads giveaway. The book looks at the Riviera prior to WWII and throughout the course of the war. As evidence by the title, the work focuses on Coco Chanel and uses her experiences and life to analyze the Riveria. The book is half on Chanel and half on the Riviera during World War II. While the focus on Chanel had merit, the author did spend an good deal of the early part of the book discussing Chanel's rise and the societal happenings in the Riviera. The book is best when discussing the impact of WWII on the Riviera and France as a whole. Among the most noteworthy topics are the cult of the Maginot Line and the behavior of occupying troops. Throughout the prewar chapters, the author mentions the belief of the French populace in the safety and impenetrability of the Maginot Line. The level of this belief led to a sense of utter despair after its circumnavigation. It appears the the fall of the line crushed the French fighting spirt. Additionally, the behavior of occupying Italian troops is noteworth. Italian troops are cited as being very tolerant to all peoples in Riviera and actually refusing to allow the arrest or deportation of Jewish citizens in their area. Previously, I had not heard of this and it was interesting to see the differing attitude amongst the occupying powers. Overall, this was an interesting book, but I would have preferred it to have left out the societal and fasion focus.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I have always enjoyed Anne de Courcy’s books, although this was something of a mixed read. In essence, it is a book of two halves. It begins with the decadence and extravagance of life on the Riviera, but, once war looms, there is a far more disturbing account of fascism, anti-Semitism, collaboration and shortages. Although the book is clear that this is not a life of Chanel, she is a central figure. The beginning sets the scene well, with the Duke of Windsor coming to visit W. Somerset Maugham, I have always enjoyed Anne de Courcy’s books, although this was something of a mixed read. In essence, it is a book of two halves. It begins with the decadence and extravagance of life on the Riviera, but, once war looms, there is a far more disturbing account of fascism, anti-Semitism, collaboration and shortages. Although the book is clear that this is not a life of Chanel, she is a central figure. The beginning sets the scene well, with the Duke of Windsor coming to visit W. Somerset Maugham, and dropping the words, ‘Her,’ ‘Royal,’ ‘Highness,’ like bricks into the conversation… Although the main talking point at that time was Mrs Simpson, and how to address her, there was many others keen to visit this world of luxury and relaxation. From Churchill to Mosley, Aldous Huxley, Cyril Connolly, Wodehouse, Beaverbrook and Edith Wharton, the rich and famous flocked to the sea. However, among the love affairs and sea bathing, there are also drugs, debts and despair. Certainly, the approaching war cast a dark shadow, despite the initial attempt of many there to ignore the facts that war was coming. As the threat of war increased, many British subjects attempted to leave France, although the Duke of Windsor was hard to convince, until he was almost bundled out of the country, and out of harms way (whether his, or ours, is hard to discern). Of course, Coco Chanel’s war years, and of her collaboration with the German occupation, are well known. Bizarrely, she attempted to organise peace talks between Churchill and German High Command, but there is more about others caught up in the war; including those in Paris. Among the collaborators, of course, there is also resistance, bravery and kindness. Overall, this is an interesting, if slightly uneven, read, which does not quite know which part of the time it most wishes to address.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    There were some major problems with this book. Repetitive language and badly organized This book reads like a first draft. First, some smaller things. The author has the same paragraph--with nearly the same wording--about Chanel's childhood twice to no good effect. She introduces Aldous Huxley several times, with almost the exact same wording. She skips around in the twenties and thirties for no real reason, succeeding in muddying the timeline and repeating biographical and historical details over There were some major problems with this book. Repetitive language and badly organized This book reads like a first draft. First, some smaller things. The author has the same paragraph--with nearly the same wording--about Chanel's childhood twice to no good effect. She introduces Aldous Huxley several times, with almost the exact same wording. She skips around in the twenties and thirties for no real reason, succeeding in muddying the timeline and repeating biographical and historical details over and over again. The editors should have fixed those problems. As for the structure overall, I believe the intention in the first third was to paint a picture of the decadence of the Riviera, which was studiously ignoring the affairs of the continent. The decadence, I got--though why we need to know every piece of furniture in every mansion is not clear. She many times says that world affairs "ripple" into the consciousness of the Riviera, but she never gives any hint as to what these Riviera inhabitants truly think about them. She implies that these people--Chanel, Huxley, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Proust, etc.--were simply too rich and frivolous to care much about the impending disaster. What a cliché. Really? The greatest artists and intellectuals of the time had no opinion at all about politics in the 1930s? If they were all in denial, then tell us why. Tell us how their denial mirrored the country's overall attitude to Germany--tell us why it was important. She gives a great deal of attention to Vichy France's shameful part in the Holocaust. I wouldn't object to this, except that it was a major diversion from the Riviera and from Chanel. This book was totally unfocused, as a result. It should have been two books. One on the Riviera and its people, one on France and the Holocaust. The author makes very little effort to connect those very different topics. I don't think the pieces on the Holocaust were well-written either, but at least the importance of the material was clear. Shallow The author focuses to an absurd extent on the sex lives of the rich and famous. If she had, for example, given an analysis of the denial and class privilege these people were indulging in compared with the rest of Europe, which did not have the luxury of ignoring the impending war, it would have been one thing. If she had given some context of the Riviera, or explained how the end of World War I dovetailed into the lost generation and the Roaring Twenties, it could have been interesting. However, she doesn't give much more than a lot of namedropping attached to a lengthy catalogue of affairs and vices. I guess it was just really fun to peek behind the curtain of household names? As a side note, the author cites a literary tour guide of the Riviera as one of her sources. It kind of seems like she took the tour guide and expanded it for the first third of the book. The most irritating "storyline" was her inclusion of the the Duke of Windsor and his wife, Wallis Simpson. Their scandal seems to be included simply because it was scandalous, not because the author really had anything to say about it and how it fit into the picture of France in World War II. She gives them a lot of space in the first half of the book or so, then they simply disappear from the narrative entirely. The author indulges in baseless speculation many times. The most irritating was her suggestion that Chanel tried to broker a peace between Churchill and Hitler out of boredom. Boredom! Further examples are her suggestions that Chanel probably took lovers in her fifties and beyond because she, as an "older" woman, was grateful to get any kind of action that she could. At one point, the author suggests Chanel had a younger man as her lover because she wanted to show off her "fine specimen." Again, what a cliché! How ridiculous. If you don't know why someone did something, why speculate? Just say that the records don't show it. If you do speculate, give some character analysis based on facts that actually are available. The historical summaries she gives are nothing special. I've read many better ones; it's clear to me that she hasn't read much military history, which is too bad, given the importance she grants to the Maginot Line. She needed to read Max Hastings and Rick Atkinson. Her bibliography lists more books about Chanel than about World War II.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Helen Carolan

    Dear god. A serious bit of arse kissing went on here. I don't know how anyone could tell that Ms De Courcy had a serious thing for Channel as nothing in this book gives this away. Not. What makes the whole thing worse is that as the author is kissing Channel's butt, the designer herself is still coming across as an absolute bitch. Even Ms de Courcy's lovefest cannot save her. Dreadful piece of writing.. Dear god. A serious bit of arse kissing went on here. I don't know how anyone could tell that Ms De Courcy had a serious thing for Channel as nothing in this book gives this away. Not. What makes the whole thing worse is that as the author is kissing Channel's butt, the designer herself is still coming across as an absolute bitch. Even Ms de Courcy's lovefest cannot save her. Dreadful piece of writing..

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    When I heard Anne de Courcy talk about her book at Henley Literary Festival recently she described Chanel’s Riviera as a ‘biography of the Riviera’. I think that’s a fair description because readers expecting the majority of the book to be about Chanel may be disappointed. Yes, Chanel does feature a lot but in sections of the book she is either on the periphery or absent entirely. For example, she spent periods during the war in Paris rather than on the Riviera. What the book does well is conjure When I heard Anne de Courcy talk about her book at Henley Literary Festival recently she described Chanel’s Riviera as a ‘biography of the Riviera’. I think that’s a fair description because readers expecting the majority of the book to be about Chanel may be disappointed. Yes, Chanel does feature a lot but in sections of the book she is either on the periphery or absent entirely. For example, she spent periods during the war in Paris rather than on the Riviera. What the book does well is conjure up the glamour and hedonism of life on the Riviera for the rich and famous before the war. The author describes how it became a haven for writers and artists like Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, H G Wells and Jean Cocteau, as well as society figures such as Winston Churchill and, later, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The mood changes suddenly following the outbreak of war. The book depicts the arrival of refugees from Northern Europe, including Jews fleeing persecution, and the food shortages that followed the fall of France in 1940 as supplies were diverted to Germany. Life for many living on the Cote d’Azur became really tough and the author uses material from diaries and contemporary sources to tell the harrowing stories of individuals. Other than her reputation as a designer, I knew very little about Chanel’s life before reading this book. It was interesting to learn of her rise from humble beginnings to doyenne of the fashion world. However, I can’t say everything I learned made me warm to Chanel as a person. For instance, I was shocked to learn of her anti-Semitic views. In the book the author addresses claims that Chanel collaborated with the Nazis. For example, she suggests Chanel’s taking of a senior German officer as a lover was principally aimed at trying to gain the release of her nephew who was being held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. However I found myself wondering if ‘the will to survive’ was sufficient justification for some of Chanel’s actions. As the author recounts, partly what kept Chanel free from the retaliation meted out to others accused of collaboration was the reopening of her Paris store following its liberation in 1944 and the offer of a free bottle of her iconic perfume for every US soldier to take home to their wife or sweetheart. That and being able to produce papers demonstrating her friendship with Winston Churchill. Chanel’s Riviera is clearly the product of extensive research. For me, the most interesting element of the book was seeing the impact of the Second World War on an area of France which had hitherto been the playground of the rich and famous. #NonficNov

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    As others have said, this is not a book solely about Coco Chanel. The book title is Chanel’s RIVIERA. This is a book about life on the French Riviera pre WW II and after. The before war story is, as imagined, glamorous and chic. Chanel and her friends had never ending good times. Then, as quickly as this coronavirus has changed lives in the USA and world, WWII and its German occupation changed France in unspeakable ways. I have to tell you, I know a good bit about Britain, and life in the US, an As others have said, this is not a book solely about Coco Chanel. The book title is Chanel’s RIVIERA. This is a book about life on the French Riviera pre WW II and after. The before war story is, as imagined, glamorous and chic. Chanel and her friends had never ending good times. Then, as quickly as this coronavirus has changed lives in the USA and world, WWII and its German occupation changed France in unspeakable ways. I have to tell you, I know a good bit about Britain, and life in the US, and Germany during the war, but not much about France. This a war story book. It is a sobering story about those very same people at the start of the book and at the end. It is a tragedy. I’m left with much to think about, imagine, and feel sorry about on so many levels. This makes it a good book. I am giving it 5 stars for that reason, but know this is not a fun and games, happy-go-lucky book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This account of Coco Chanel’s life, largely focused on her time in the South of France, feels like two entirely separate stories: The first half is light and entertaining, the second heavier and entrenched in the war. Both are interesting but have little in common either in tone or subject save for the presence of Chanel. The first half of the book is a delightful romp through southern France before the war, told mostly through amusing anecdotes about Chanel and other interesting figures present This account of Coco Chanel’s life, largely focused on her time in the South of France, feels like two entirely separate stories: The first half is light and entertaining, the second heavier and entrenched in the war. Both are interesting but have little in common either in tone or subject save for the presence of Chanel. The first half of the book is a delightful romp through southern France before the war, told mostly through amusing anecdotes about Chanel and other interesting figures present in the area at the time. The second half of the book focuses purely on the role of Chanel and the South of France in general during the war. Though both are worthy topics, they are a bit difficult to reconcile as a cohesive whole. Picture a movie that begins as a frothy comedy which later takes a sudden, sharp right turn into a bleak war documentary. While it’s certainly true that both must be included to accurately summarize Chanel’s time on the Riviera, the book’s leap from one to the other was jarring and the two halves of the story never end up feeling like they belong together in the same volume. Perhaps this is an issue of presentation and transition, or perhaps these two topics simply don’t belong together in one narrative, regardless of the fact that both were important (and concurrent) periods of Chanel’s life. Despite the disconnect, I mostly enjoyed the book. The first half is much more pleasurable to read, certainly to an extent because it’s the “fun” part, but more because it’s the section of the book where we get more new information. Chanel’s life during and role in the war are well documented. There’s nothing new to report here. But of her time in the region prior to the war, there’s much to learn about Chanel’s life as well as the lives of those in her orbit from this account. *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    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 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. A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate Grace

    Anne de Courcy’s Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War is, by turns, elaborately elegant and clear and forthright in its storytelling. What I loved about Chanel’s Riviera: -The author’s sense of purpose in writing - in telling “new” stories of Chanel and the French Riviera, by telling them together -The contrast between the golden high life and the dark, approaching storm of WWII What I didn’t love so much about Chanel’s Riviera: -Storytelling veering off into listing. Anne de Courcy’s Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War is, by turns, elaborately elegant and clear and forthright in its storytelling. What I loved about Chanel’s Riviera: -The author’s sense of purpose in writing - in telling “new” stories of Chanel and the French Riviera, by telling them together -The contrast between the golden high life and the dark, approaching storm of WWII What I didn’t love so much about Chanel’s Riviera: -Storytelling veering off into listing... Lists, as a form, make the information difficult to retain and/or seem redundant -The book’s organization... Overall it’s solid, but I wonder if PARTS in addition to chapters would clarify relationships between ideas This book gave me a unique window on not just Chanel’s life, but the Riviera’s life in the buildup to, and during the trauma of, WWII. Thank you to Anne de Courcy, St. Martin’s Press, and Goodreads Giveaways for my advance readers’ edition.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kim Bakos

    I'll admit I didn't really finish this book - I only made it about halfway through. I kept waiting for it get "good" and capture my interest, but that hadn't happened by page 138, so I gave up. For me, it was like reading Jesus's genealogy in Matthew - so and so went to such and such place with so and so - when you don't know the names or the places, it just like reading the phonebook with names and addresses :( I'll admit I didn't really finish this book - I only made it about halfway through. I kept waiting for it get "good" and capture my interest, but that hadn't happened by page 138, so I gave up. For me, it was like reading Jesus's genealogy in Matthew - so and so went to such and such place with so and so - when you don't know the names or the places, it just like reading the phonebook with names and addresses :(

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura Schlosberg

    I received an advanced reader copy through goodreads. I abandoned the book after 69 pages. The content was too gossipy and disorganized.

  16. 4 out of 5

    R Fontaine

    I’m torn in too many ways to succinctly,perhaps fairly perhaps not, tying monumental torturous history to societal contretemps. The moods are,at times, a bridge too far. There is no question that Coco Chanel was a powerful talented personality who managed to live in the Ritz while Parisians were dying,suffering and starving, and Jews were rounded- up and imprisoned in Drancy to later be railroaded to Auschwitz. A part of me asks what would I do and for that I have no honest answer. When the narra I’m torn in too many ways to succinctly,perhaps fairly perhaps not, tying monumental torturous history to societal contretemps. The moods are,at times, a bridge too far. There is no question that Coco Chanel was a powerful talented personality who managed to live in the Ritz while Parisians were dying,suffering and starving, and Jews were rounded- up and imprisoned in Drancy to later be railroaded to Auschwitz. A part of me asks what would I do and for that I have no honest answer. When the narrative moves from Paris to the Cote d’Azur and the horrors of the Vichy collaboration orchestrated byMarshall Pétain,I found it to be more grounded and serious. Finally: An outrageous blurb from The Washington Times: AMUSING AND BREEZILY READABLE is soul sapping.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    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 tradi 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 🏖 🏖 🏖 🏖

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rina (whatsrinareading)

    First of all, thank you SO SO much to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I'm so happy I got to read the book. It was truly a gift! ⁠ Second...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 forgetti First of all, thank you SO SO much to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I'm so happy I got to read the book. It was truly a gift! ⁠ Second...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.⁠ ⁠ 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!!⁠ ⁠ 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.⁠ ⁠ 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. ⁠😂

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    I was so excited to dig into this book since I have a trip planned to the French Riviera this summer. (We’ll see about that.) Unfortunately, I was disappointed. This book digs into the idyllic Cote d’Azur and its glamorous residents. Chanel owned her only real home there, called La Pausa. She, and the other artists and literati, spent a lot of time carousing and entertaining one another. I enjoyed learning about Chanel’s love life and her incredible work ethic. The book is full of notable people I was so excited to dig into this book since I have a trip planned to the French Riviera this summer. (We’ll see about that.) Unfortunately, I was disappointed. This book digs into the idyllic Cote d’Azur and its glamorous residents. Chanel owned her only real home there, called La Pausa. She, and the other artists and literati, spent a lot of time carousing and entertaining one another. I enjoyed learning about Chanel’s love life and her incredible work ethic. The book is full of notable people, like the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Churchill, Somerset Maugham, Picasso, Dali, etc. I got bogged down in the details of some of the lesser known figures. Many of Chanel’s friends were, frankly, not very nice. Lots of affairs and drug use and bad behavior. At the beginning of WWII, the Riviera was mostly immune to what was going on elsewhere in Europe. Wealth and prestige allowed them to ignore what was coming. Chanel made some questionable choices during the war and found that her celebrity and status as a fashion designer offered her some degree of protection. De Courcy weaves together the war stories of these ultra wealthy people along with the experiences of regular people. Overall I felt that the book tried to do too much. I had trouble staying focused and had to force myself to stick with it. My biggest takeaway is that I now want some of Chanel’s beach pajamas, pictured on the front cover. Wonder if they still make those?!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Loulou

    Up from 2.5 . The parts I was most interested in were how the Italians were so much less anti-Jewish than the French, and also the wartime experience of the Jews in the south of France. This book reminds me never to forget that anti Jewish actions are both enthusiastically and tacitly supported by many, many people.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This was a Goodreads giveaway winner... When I first saw this book was going to be published early next year, I couldn't wait to read it. My delight in being a Goodreads giveaway reader was unrivaled. It started out reminding me of a book I read last year, "The Riviera Set: Glitz, Glamour, and the­ Hidden World of High Society" by ­Mary S. Lovell­, in that it focused on the frivolous, wealthy, and elegant society (lots of name dropping throughout) hanging out and showing off on the Riviera, just b This was a Goodreads giveaway winner... When I first saw this book was going to be published early next year, I couldn't wait to read it. My delight in being a Goodreads giveaway reader was unrivaled. It started out reminding me of a book I read last year, "The Riviera Set: Glitz, Glamour, and the­ Hidden World of High Society" by ­Mary S. Lovell­, in that it focused on the frivolous, wealthy, and elegant society (lots of name dropping throughout) hanging out and showing off on the Riviera, just before the outbreak of the war. But then the author tricked me and made what I thought would be a tantalizing romp amongst the rich and famous into so much more. With the start of World War II the reader is drawn into the horrifying reality that touched the lives of those on the Riviera, and beyond; discovering the tragedies, deceptions, and heroics that would change their lives forever. I definitely recommend this to those interested in this subject. Side note: As this was such an advanced copy none of the illustrations were included. I'll have to get a copy when it's published so I can see them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    I began reading the book with the idea it was mainly about Coco Chanel and the Riviera set. However, I found that section gossipy and so full of name-dropping as it detailed the hedonistic lifestyle of the wealthy and famous that I was ready to abandon the book. Then World War II began. The author illustrates in tragic and horrifying detail what happened to the foreigners, refugees, Jews, and French citizens along the Riviera as well as other parts of France as the German Occupation unfolds. This I began reading the book with the idea it was mainly about Coco Chanel and the Riviera set. However, I found that section gossipy and so full of name-dropping as it detailed the hedonistic lifestyle of the wealthy and famous that I was ready to abandon the book. Then World War II began. The author illustrates in tragic and horrifying detail what happened to the foreigners, refugees, Jews, and French citizens along the Riviera as well as other parts of France as the German Occupation unfolds. This was why she had introduced so many people on the Riviera in the first part - so she could detail what happened to them. She continues to follow Chanel as well although I felt the details about her possible collaboration was very vague and it seemed the author tried to defend her a bit too much. This part of the book was worth the read which resulted in the 4 rating. The book still needs a bit of proofing. For instance, Chapter 15 is recorded as Chapter 13. The illustrations were not yet included in the ARC which was disappointing. This was a goodreads giveaway and this review is my opinion.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kim Fox

    I am so glad I read this book!! I love history and I love books based in and around WW2, but this one added another dimension... Coco Chanel and fashion. At first I kind of thought to myself that this might not work for me, but the way the author wrote this book changed my mind! I didn't realize how connected she was. Churchill, the abdicated King, Edward and so many more! The first chapter was a little hard to get through, but that was because of the number of people that were introduced. That I am so glad I read this book!! I love history and I love books based in and around WW2, but this one added another dimension... Coco Chanel and fashion. At first I kind of thought to myself that this might not work for me, but the way the author wrote this book changed my mind! I didn't realize how connected she was. Churchill, the abdicated King, Edward and so many more! The first chapter was a little hard to get through, but that was because of the number of people that were introduced. That was a theme throughout, but once the author included the war and what was transpiring at the same time, it made this book so interesting. I learned new things about the war, especially about the Italians! And I most certainly learned new things about Coco Chanel, some good and some not so good. But what impressed me the most was the amount of research that was done to write this book. Anne DeCourcy's ability to take all this information and put it into a book that is not just informative and but a good read. Amazing!! If you like history, WW2, society, fashion and a amazing research, You will love this book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This isn’t a book about glamorous Coco Chanel. It doesn’t paint a good picture of her. Rather, the book is about how the French Riviera became a haven to Jews during WWII and how the Italians disobeyed French and German orders to send the Jews in the Riviera to concentration camps. Once Italy surrendered and the Germans took over, the 30,000 Jews in the Riviera no longer had any help or protection apart from some brave members of the French resistance. Chanel meanwhile was shacking up with a Ger This isn’t a book about glamorous Coco Chanel. It doesn’t paint a good picture of her. Rather, the book is about how the French Riviera became a haven to Jews during WWII and how the Italians disobeyed French and German orders to send the Jews in the Riviera to concentration camps. Once Italy surrendered and the Germans took over, the 30,000 Jews in the Riviera no longer had any help or protection apart from some brave members of the French resistance. Chanel meanwhile was shacking up with a German and doing what it took to keep herself living in comfort.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Rogers

    The book’s title, Chanel’s Riviera, led me to believe that the subject of the book would be Coco Chanel. It started out so. But early on, the author ran out of concrete data on Chanel and her crowd. It’s apparent because multiple unknown people are introduced who have nothing to do with Chanel, but whose diaries help the author tell the story of the German invasion and occupation of France as well as the Axis presence on the French Riviera in WWII. Toward the end of the book, only smatterings of The book’s title, Chanel’s Riviera, led me to believe that the subject of the book would be Coco Chanel. It started out so. But early on, the author ran out of concrete data on Chanel and her crowd. It’s apparent because multiple unknown people are introduced who have nothing to do with Chanel, but whose diaries help the author tell the story of the German invasion and occupation of France as well as the Axis presence on the French Riviera in WWII. Toward the end of the book, only smatterings of Chanel’s activities are mentioned and even these contain a big dose of supposition. Even worse than the deceptive title, the author puts forth the idea that Chanel was probably not a German spy which is generally now accepted as fact. But, if she was, purports the author, she probably didn’t have much valuable intelligence of French resistance activities to share. The author excused Chanel from sleeping with the enemy reminding us of her deprived childhood in a Catholic orphanage where she saw only black and white clothing. Yes, she did have a German lover during French Occupation, Spatz Von Dincklage, but wasn’t he half British? “Judging by his past,” writes the author, “he was an opportunist rather than a convinced Nazi.” And, after all, she was the Great Chanel, “with the great gift, not given to all such people, of spotting an opportunity when it was still well below the average person’s horizon.” The author calls Spatz “a fine specimen” that Chanel would not have passed up just because of his German nationality. On page 236, The author as apologist pulls out all the stops and promotes the idea that the acclaimed French couturier only wanted peace and was trying to negotiate an end to the war. This is hard to swallow. Truth is that Coco Chanel wanted a return to the luxurious lifestyle to which she had grown to expect ( she lived in the Ritz during War years-where Germans were lodged), a lifetime of high times and a daily morphine habit that continued until the end of her days. Her friendship with Churchill no doubt spared her one of the fates visited on many of French citizens who collaborated with the Germans during the War: the public humiliation of being rounded up with other women who had slept with German soldiers, had her bobbed black hair shaved off, then being marched through the streets of París as crowds spit and jeered, or a life sentence in a French prison, or death by firing squad.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    This book was all over the place, from Coco Chanel's business, to her lovers, to life amid opulence on the Cote d'Azur, to WW2 and occupied France. When I say all over the place, I mean it was so much more than just Chanel and the Riviera. And I loved it! This book was all over the place, from Coco Chanel's business, to her lovers, to life amid opulence on the Cote d'Azur, to WW2 and occupied France. When I say all over the place, I mean it was so much more than just Chanel and the Riviera. And I loved it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    S. Thomas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. grade......B....good picture of what life was like in southern France during the German occupation

  28. 5 out of 5

    June

    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 eno 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Conny

    I got this book because it sounded like it would be an interesting read about a time I did not know much about, and since I alway wanted to own a Chanel Jacket I wanted to find out more about her. I was looking forward to reading it and it was indeed interesting, but I found it rather choppy and confusing at times. It jumped around from the 30is to the 40is and back again and there were so many people that I could not keep them all straight at times. I would have loved to spend a summer at the R I got this book because it sounded like it would be an interesting read about a time I did not know much about, and since I alway wanted to own a Chanel Jacket I wanted to find out more about her. I was looking forward to reading it and it was indeed interesting, but I found it rather choppy and confusing at times. It jumped around from the 30is to the 40is and back again and there were so many people that I could not keep them all straight at times. I would have loved to spend a summer at the Riviera during that time, since it does indeed sound idilic, if you have an abundance of money. All I took away from the book was that Chanel was generous to her friends and lovers, many married, and not so kind to her employees, though apparently she would shower some with gifts but nothing you could count on if you struggle.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim Shreffler

    Interesting tidbits concerning that time and place. Not exactly a page turner but more a pick it up and enjoy a short vignette. At times it was a little tricky to follow the timeline but overall enjoyable.

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