cover image Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War

Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War

Anne de Courcy. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-17707-0

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.)