BUGATTI QUEEN: In Search of a French Racing Legend

Miranda Seymour, Author . Random $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6168-6

Hellé Nice (1900–1984) has been called "the greatest female race car driver of her time." Through a new discovery of obscure scrapbooks, biographer Seymour (Robert Graves ; Mary Shelley ; etc.) remembers the famous and multifaceted woman whose journey through life took her to the extremes of fame and poverty. Seymour imagines the missing details, offering a suspenseful read full of intense rivalries, love affairs and family drama. From a humble upbringing in a French village, Nice became a nude model; a legitimate, admired dancer; a cabaret star; and, finally, a race car driver. Nice won the first Grand Prix for women (in 1930), although she prided herself on open competitions. "All I ever ask for," she said, is "just to show what I can do, without a handicap, against men." Although it's clear Nice excelled in driving, Seymour is quick to infer that she was used primarily as a marketing tool by the media; both the press and the public adored her. Yet after suffering a car accident, supporting her lover's costly art projects, being overshadowed by younger drivers and being accused of being a Nazi sympathizer (though this was never confirmed), Nice died penniless, friendless and mostly forgotten. Nice's passion for life will attract readers not interested in race cars—her compelling life becomes the book's driving force. Photos. Agents, Anthony Goff and Henry Dunow. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/18/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 301 pages - 978-0-7434-7859-5
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