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

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

In this captivating narrative, Chanels Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote dAzur during a period that saw the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the twentieth century.The Cote dAzur 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...

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Title:Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944
Author:Anne de Courcy
Rating:
Edition Language:English

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

  • Anne

    As others have said, this is not a book solely about Coco Chanel. The book title is Chanels 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

    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.

  • Kate Grace

    Anne de Courcys Chanels 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 Chanels Riviera:

    -The authors 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 didnt love so much about Chanels 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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 tradition of

    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 🏖 🏖 🏖 🏖

  • Valerity (Val)

    Ive 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

    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:

  • 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

    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. ⁠😂

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    In a nutshell, half of this book is about Coco Chanels 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

    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:

    and instagram:

  • 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

    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.

  • 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..

  • 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.

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