Chanel's Riviera Glamour, decadence, and survival in peace and war, 1930-1944

Anne De Courcy

Book - 2020

"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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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : St. Martin's Press 2020.
Edition
First U.S. edition
Language
English
Physical Description
x, 293 pages, 16 unnumbered pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 279-282) and index.
ISBN
9781250177070
1250177073
Main Author
Anne De Courcy (author)
  • 1930, the Beginning: La Pausa
  • Misia Sert and Her Circle
  • Fun, Games and the Beginning of Terror
  • Love and Glamour on the Sunshine Coast
  • Socialism and Mrs Simpson
  • 1937, the Rise of Schiaparelli
  • The Shadow of War
  • 'La drôle de guerre'
  • June 1940
  • The Vichy Government
  • 'A German Victory is Certain'
  • The Brutal Antisemitism of Vichy; Italian Protection
  • Escapes, Captures and Starvation Rations
  • Trying to Survive
  • Dubious Activities
  • The Resistance Grows Stronger, the Starving People Weaker
  • Last Days
  • Epilogue.
Review by Booklist Reviews

This detailed social history uses copious name-dropping and gloriously gossipy text to highlight Coco Chanel's considerable influence on the south of France during the 1930s, providing insights into the decadent lifestyles and extravagant fashions favored by glamorous visitors to the Riveria. De Courcy (The Husband Hunters, 2018) is adept at describing displays of opulence, and proves equally capable when portraying the deprivations and reversals of fortune occasioned by the onset of WWII. Stories of bewildered internees, clueless socialites, heroes, cowards, victims, and survivors intermingle, and an epilogue provides post-war closure for many of the principal characters. And Coco? She shuttered her Paris couture business, but continued to live a lavish lifestyle, although her relationships with high-ranking Germans came under scrutiny. (She was taken in for questioning after the Allied victory, but apparently her international fame, plus her gift of a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume to every liberating American G.I., saved her.) This will be popular with royal watchers, fashionistas, and readers who relish the international social scene, and should cover new territory for most. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist de Courcy (The Husband Hunters) portrays fashion designer Coco Chanel's French Riviera milieu from 1930 through the end of WWII in this dishy and well-researched account. At a time when the Côte d'Azur had already become "the playground of the rich," Chanel bought 12 acres above the village of Roquebrune and built a villa modeled after the convent where she'd spent her adolescence. Writers and artists including Colette, Aldous Huxley, and Pablo Picasso had homes in the region, and Winston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov, and Chanel's friend and lover Salvador Dalí visited during summers of "feverish gaiety, threaded through with rumor and suspicion" as the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany. After the fall of France in 1940, British nationals fled the Riviera, and de Courcy frequently and deservedly shifts the spotlight from Chanel to historical figures including Australian socialite Enid Furness, who helped Allied prisoners escape from a detention camp near the village of Èze. De Courcy describes the impact of anti-Jewish laws and food shortages on those who remained in the region, but lets Chanel off the hook for her anti-Semitism and her affair with Nazi intelligence officer Hans von Dincklage, who helped to insulate the designer from wartime deprivations. Nevertheless, this fluidly written history succeeds in capturing the era's intoxicating mix of glitz and grit. Agent: Isobel Dixon, The Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. (Feb.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Explores the wealth and extravagance of the Cote d’Azur in 1938, where Coco Chanel hosted Gloria Swanson, Colette, Picasso and Somerset Maugham in her magnificent villa to escape the turmoil plaguing the rest of Europe before World War II. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"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."--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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, France surrendered to the Germans 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.