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Publisher's Summary

Heiress to the nearly 40-billion-dollar L’Oréal fortune, Liliane Bettencourt was the world’s richest woman and the 14th wealthiest person. But her gilded life took a dark yet fascinating turn in the past decade. At 94, she was embroiled in what has been called the Bettencourt Affair, a scandal that dominated the headlines in France. Why? It’s a tangled web of hidden secrets, divided loyalties, frayed relationships, and fractured families, set in the most romantic city - and involving the most glamorous industry - in the world.

The Bettencourt Affair started as a family drama but quickly became a massive scandal, uncovering L’Oréal’s shadowy corporate history and buried World War II secrets. From the Right Bank mansions to the Left Bank artist havens; and from the Bettencourts’ servant quarters to the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy; all of Paris was shaken by the blockbuster case, the shocking reversals, and the surprising final victim.

It all began when Liliane met François-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer who was, in his youth, the toast of Paris and a protégé of Salvador Dalí. Over the next two decades, Banier was given hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts, cash, and insurance policies by Liliane. What, exactly, was their relationship? It wasn’t clear, least of all to Liliane’s daughter and only child, Françoise, who became suspicious of Banier’s motives and filed a lawsuit against him. But Banier has a far different story to tell...

The Bettencourt Affair is part courtroom drama; part upstairs-downstairs tale; and part character-driven story of a complex, fascinating family, and the intruder who nearly tore it apart.

©2017 Tom Sancton (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

An NPR Best Book of 2017

"Juicy...the very picture of un grand scandale about the world’s richest woman." (Vanity Fair)

"Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oréal heiress worth billions, became infatuated with a man 25 years her junior (a former Dalí protégé and an apparent social climber), giving him lavish gifts and even moving to adopt him. The story has all the trappings of a juicy affair, including graft and hidden Nazi sympathies." (Joumana Khatib, The New York Times Book Review Paperback Row)

What listeners say about The Bettencourt Affair

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  • IAN
  • 28-11-2021

Extraordinary story.

Recommended, a story of friendship and largess, it’s hard to judge who is the villain except for the politicians and their cohorts.

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  • Minda Leah Kahn
  • 10-06-2018

Impossible to listen to.

This is a great story. The Vanity Fair piece was riveting. This voice is horrifying. You couldn’t get an actress who speaks French and narrates. Kristin Scott Thomas? It will take weeks to get through this.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Juana Dement
  • 13-10-2017

Fantastic read

very interesting story I liked the portrayal of each character and the auditors voice and mannerisms and especially the accents. Long book but very enjoyable

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jean
  • 24-10-2017

A Juicy Chronicle

With the recent death of Liliane Bettencourt, the heir to the L’Oréal fortune, I thought this newly published book (August 2017) about her was a good time to learn more about this reclusive woman.

The book reads like a novel as Liliane falls victim to a con man. One of the questions brought up was it actually her family that was the real villain. You will need to read the book and make up your own mind.

Liliane’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyer, filed a lawsuit against Liliane’s friend Francois-Marie Banier. The lawsuit accused Banier of exploitation of a weakness. This was in 2007 just at the onset of Liliane’s Alzheimer’s disease. Liliane gave Banier approximately one billion euros. I found it interesting that Liliana’s father was anti-Semitic. Then his granddaughter, Francoise, married a Jew and is raising her two sons in the Hebrew faith.

The book provides insight into the French judicial system which is based on Napoleonic code. It is a system that seems made to delay final decisions as cases wind their way through the different court systems. The book is well written and meticulously researched. It is easy to read and entertaining. I found the information about how the French courts work most interesting and I am glad I live under the American system of law.

The book is fourteen hours long. Amanda Carlin does a good job narrating the book. Carlin is an actress and longtime audiobook narrator.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Nancy Riplinger
  • 16-09-2017

Very good

A very detailed account of the lives of a dysfunctional family. I don' think Banier was trying to steal from her. I think she was a lonely old woman who should have been able to spend her money how she pleased. I think the daughter was more about the money.

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  • kimberly jennings
  • 02-09-2017

Intriguing story

At first I was a bit startled by the narrator's voice... she sounded like Siri. However as I continued to listen, I liked her matter of fact delivery and command of French. Well done.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Just Curious
  • 16-08-2017

Rise above the writer's attitudes

If you could sum up The Bettencourt Affair in three words, what would they be?

The author's personal attitudes and propensity to devalue others almost smother the book. If you can rise above that, there is a lot of documentation and valuable information to gleam from the efforts.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Bettencourt Affair?

The daughter, friends, and employees that worked to undermine the benefactor. I think the heiress' son in law was greatly underestimated in this theater. On the other hand, the son in law prevailed to secure a family legacy. It is very sad at the end the way a generous but handicapped (emotionally) woman, was overwhelmed after her husband (totally underestimated mostly by the author) passed away.

Have you listened to any of Amanda Carlin’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No. The narration was very good though.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Beggars and benefactors.

Any additional comments?

A testament as to how wealth can weaken a person without allies one becomes fair game. Her husband was grossly underestimated. While he lived she was never fair game. After he passed, the wolves moved in. The husband was actually the power, and it all went by the way side.

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  • MK
  • 27-11-2017

Read by Siri?

The reader’s voice was very distracting. At times she sounds exactly like Siri, piecing together fragments of words that don’t flow. Other times she sounds like she desperately needs to clear her throat. Story was average. Nothing less. Nothing more.

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  • Marilla
  • 19-09-2019

Performance ruined this

The story is great but the performance is so lackluster and just plain awful that I had to stop listening at chapter three. I just
couldn't bear her delivery. I did listen to a sample and thought it was just ok but bearable but on further listening it didn't work. I'm intrigued by the story and the writing is fine but an awful listen.Wish I hadn't spent the credit.

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  • Mark Regiec
  • 14-09-2017

The things we do for money

If this was fiction people would say it is to farfetched
What I like about this book are several
One a deep appreciation for the U. S. Judicial system
Two the book gave you great detail from the beginning all the way up today.
My only complaint and it is no fault of author. Is the names are in French. I had hart time keeping people straight who was who.

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  • Agatha Rule
  • 25-04-2019

LAAWD

this was long. It's a great story. Carlin had a lot of years and info to wade through and she threaded it together neatly. Although, it could have used a pdf - I relied on the google to help understand how pieces and people fit together. The narrator was almost the reason I quit listening, and it was quite a workout to finish it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rahel
  • 07-06-2018

Fact stranger than fiction

This book fulfills the dream of a biography afficianado, as well as an intrigue lover.

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  • Colin McIntosh
  • 11-09-2017

Fascinating story

You couldn't make this up and it is an incredibly engrossing case. Whilst you get the conclusion you can also draw your own. Narration is good but a lot of characters in the case to keep track of. Recommended

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