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Publisher's Summary

Far from worrying about the onset of war, in the spring of 1938 the burning question on the French Riviera was whether one should curtsy to the Duchess of Windsor. Few of those who had settled there thought much about what was going on in the rest of Europe. It was a golden, glamorous life, far removed from politics or conflict.

Featuring a sparkling cast of artists, writers and historical figures including Winston Churchill, Daisy Fellowes, Salvador Dalí, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Eileen Gray and Edith Wharton, with the enigmatic Coco Chanel at its heart, Chanel's Riviera is a captivating account of a period that saw some of the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the whole of the 20th century.

From Chanel's first summer at her Roquebrune villa La Pausa (in the later years with her German lover) amid the glamour of the prewar parties and casinos in Antibes, Nice and Cannes to the horrors of evacuation and the displacement of thousands of families during the Second World War, Chanel's Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d'Azur elite in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Enriched with much original research, it is social history that brings the lives of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our desktop site.

©2019 Anne de Courcy (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about Chanel's Riviera

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Very detailed social history

The book is far more detailed than the title suggests: the accounts of the persecution of the Jewish people are heart wrenching as are the descriptions of the deprivations suffered by the population as all their fresh food was shipped off to Germany and they were left with little to eat and no clothes to wear. Chanel is a starting point for the book, but not a central person so, if you are hoping to find out more about her, this is not the book for you. However, it is a detailed, well written social history, as is typical of this author. I have heard all of Anne de Courcy's books on Audible and highly recommend each one.

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  • E P
  • 29-08-2019

More about the Riviera than Chanel

Chanel was the friend of the powerful and the glamorous; their influence protected her from her collaboration and Antisemitism. An enigmatic woman who remained just as mysterious at the end of the book as at the end of her life The book strongest part is the description of the Riviera under Nazi occupation The narration is monotoned and slightly off-putting, Apple’s Siri is better at delivering nuance than Ms Roberts. However, I’m glad I listened to it in a sunny August garden close to where most of the book took place

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  • WhatCathyReadNext
  • 11-11-2019

More Riviera than Chanel

When I heard Anne de Courcy talk about her book at Henley Literary Festival recently she described Chanel’s Riviera as a ‘biography of the Riviera’. I think that’s a fair description because readers expecting the majority of the book to be about Chanel may be disappointed. Yes, Chanel does feature a lot but in sections of the book she is either on the periphery or absent entirely. For example, she spent periods during the war in Paris rather than on the Riviera. What the book does well is conjure up the glamour and hedonism of life on the Riviera for the rich and famous before the war. The author describes how it became a haven for writers and artists like Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, H G Wells and Jean Cocteau, as well as society figures such as Winston Churchill and, later, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The mood changes suddenly following the outbreak of war. The book depicts the arrival of refugees from Northern Europe, including Jews fleeing persecution, and the food shortages that followed the fall of France in 1940 as supplies were diverted to Germany. Life for many living on the Cote d’Azur became really tough and the author uses material from diaries and contemporary sources to tell the harrowing stories of individuals. Other than her reputation as a designer, I knew very little about Chanel’s life before reading this book. It was interesting to learn of her rise from humble beginnings to doyenne of the fashion world. However, I can’t say everything I learned made me warm to Chanel as a person. For instance, I was shocked to learn of her anti-Semitic views. In the book the author addresses claims that Chanel collaborated with the Nazis. For example, she suggests Chanel’s taking of a senior German officer as a lover was principally aimed at trying to gain the release of her nephew who was being held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. However I found myself wondering if ‘the will to survive’ was sufficient justification for some of Chanel’s actions. As the author recounts, partly what kept Chanel free from the retaliation meted out to others accused of collaboration was the reopening of her Paris store following its liberation in 1944 and the offer of a free bottle of her iconic perfume for every US soldier to take home to their wife or sweetheart. That and being able to produce papers demonstrating her friendship with Winston Churchill. Chanel’s Riviera is clearly the product of extensive research. For me, the most interesting element of the book was seeing the impact of the Second World War on an area of France which had hitherto been the playground of the rich and famous.

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  • Christine
  • 13-07-2020

Narrator

Quite liked the story but hated the narrator. Terrible French prononciation. It was painful to listen to the story

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-02-2020

Informative surrounding WW but...

Chanel seemed to be for herself siding with whomever may benefit her. Simple as that

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  • C. Griffiths
  • 19-12-2019

Loved the idea of this book but...

what a rambling list of names and dates it is!!!! The author is undoubtedly exceptionally conversant with the subject matter (WW2, I can't comment on the elements regarding Chanel) and I only wish this was a much deeper dive into a few very specific and 'plot' critical people...in that way avoiding the endless stream of names, dates, situations and engagements that seemingly have tenuous connections (...I'm happy to accept this may be my lack of detailed knowledge regarding some of the names but I know my WW1/WW2 history pretty well). I did wonder whether the semi-monotone narration made this listen tougher than it needed to be...and on reflection, I think a better/more animated delivery many have created greater distinction and connection. Whilst I don't expect the narrator to bring a book to life solely with their voice, I don't expect a narrator to drain the life out of a book either...and a little bit of that has happened here I think... Listening to it I find myself increasingly frustrated, not so much that the title is a tad misleading which begs the question - did the title 'The Riviera' get rejected at some point? I see it has a second title so why did it really need such a tenuous primary title...seems sneaky and slightly deceptive as designed to pull a bigger fan base...think it may have back fired a tad, from my point of view anyway... My frustration is more to do with how fantastic this book could actually be. I will be engaging with this text again (book probably next time), I think there are gems in there. I love the perspective, subject matter and this period/geography but the reality is that this book/listen is very hard work, unnecessarily hard work...and it really need not have been. Anne de Courcy - I applaud your knowledge, well done. I will most likely take my next tour of your material via the book - the audible version is flawed for me I feel.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-11-2019

incorrect pronounciation

My enjoyment was spoilt by the frequent mispronunciation and inaccuracy of place names (PAU for example) and the inability of Ms. Roberts to pronounce even the simplest of proper names (example: Elie de Rothschild, General von Choltitz). One would have thought that the author might have edited the pronunciation of the proper names, or is she in the same boat as Ms. Roberts? Even the name of Chanel's wartime German lover is mis-pronounced! It really spoilt the book for me.

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  • T H Monteith
  • 30-07-2019

Bad behaviour on The Riviera

Often shocking in its hedonistic excesses and indulgence by the very wealthy, de Courcy paints a convincing picture of life on The Riviera before and during the war. It’s full of interesting detail although sometimes the sheer cast of rather shallow characters is a bit relentless. The French don’t emerge very well with their awful attitude to Jews - the authorities couldn’t try hard enough to hasten their deportations. The wartime deprivation and struggle for survival is well detailed. How would we cope with the difficult choices to be made - starve, use the black market or collaborate?

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  • Ellen
  • 19-06-2019

Exceeded expectations

I really enjoyed this book my one and only complaint was the narration. Sophie Roberts voice improved as the story progressed and during extracts of first hand sources and recollections I found her accents to be very good, she brought warmth and emotion to the words. The text came alive but up to that point and in parts between I found her voice to be a monotonous drone that was flat and dull, sucking out all life from the book, it’s because the book was so good that my attention was held but at one point early on I almost gave in and stopped listening. I am very pleased that I didn’t as she suddenly became much more animated and the book was over all very interesting and put across points of view I had not heard before. Personally I do not like Coco Chanel, the book hasn’t changed my view of her but it has made her a more rounded figure. I definitely recommend despite the narration.

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