cover image Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture

Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture

Justine Picardie. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (448p) ISBN 978-0-3742-1035-9

Journalist Picardie (Coco Chanel) offers an evocative yet thin biography of Catherine Dior (1917–2008), the youngest sister of couturier Christian Dior and the inspiration for Miss Dior perfume. Raised at the family’s estate in Normandy, Catherine moved with her brother to Paris in 1936. After the fall of France in 1940, the siblings lived in a village near Cannes, where they gardened and socialized with other exiled Parisians. In 1941, while shopping for a battery-operated radio to listen to Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s broadcasts from London, Catherine met French Resistance leader Hervé des Charbonneries. The two fell in love, and Catherine became an active Resistance member, compiling reports on German operations and passing them to British intelligence services. Captured and tortured by the Gestapo in July 1944, she was held at the Ravensbrück and Markkleeberg concentration camps and survived a death march in April 1945. She hardly ever spoke of her wartime experiences, however, and Picardie’s narrative, though it weaves in the stories of other captured operatives and intriguing asides about perfumery, cooperation between French fashion houses and the Nazis, and other topics, suffers from the lack of firsthand information about its subject. Readers will find that the essence of this remarkable woman remains elusive. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (Oct.)