Chanel hopping between the decadent and the diabolical
Frightful thrills in ‘Chanel’s Riviera: Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Côte d’Azur: 1930-1944’
Is there room for another biography of Coco Chanel? Of course there is. Especially one with a supporting cast of the louche and the lovely, the rich and the disreputable, of artists, writers and royalty.
In Chanel’s Riviera: Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Côte d’Azur, 1930-1944 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), Anne de Courcy contrasts the wild extremes of wealth and luxury with the diabolic terrors of World War 2 through the figure of Chanel and the setting of the South of France.
The Riviera of the 1930s was not the built-up, ritzy stretch of coastline it is today. Then it was a simple summer retreat for the fashionable set, who escaped the cities on both sides of the Atlantic for the honeyed sun and thyme-scented air of the region. There were still charming fishing villages lapped by aquamarine waves, bursting with bougainvillea and pots of geraniums. Outside the towns of Antibes, Nice and Cannes the hills were dotted with villas and chateaux that housed smart coteries of writers such as F Scott Fitgerald, Jean Cocteau and Somerset Maugham; wealthy socialites crusted in jewels; and aristocrats in custom-made Bugattis with family crests emblazoned on the doors. It was a place of uninhibited enjoyment...