Author

Paul du Quenoy

Browsing

Souce: The American Conservative

The French Rivera was a haven for privileged hedonism, that is, before the Vichy arrived. Not everyone reacted nobly.

Golfer Archie Compston plays the Duke of Windsor at Cap d’Antibes in France in January 1939. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944, by Anne de Courcy, St. Martin’s Press, February 2020, 298 pages

Despite its title, Anne de Courcy’s characteristically gossipy new book purports to be neither a biography of the iconic fashion figure Coco Chanel nor a snapshot history of the French Riviera. 

Instead it seeks to portray an era torn between the interwar era’s ostentatious high life and the horrific moral deprivations and compromises inflicted by the cruelty of World War II. Inevitably, however, de Courcy cannot tell the story without relating a lot about both of the title’s subjects. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Having written a number of books about largely forgotten aristocratic British women and American heiresses who sought husbands among those ladies’ titled male relatives, her style and ability to explore people and their motivations is lively enough to hold the reader’s attention. That’s the case even if it

Souce: The American Conservative

Even with a healthy dose of skepticism, a new book on the towering Frankish king finds he was indeed ‘great’ in every sense.

Charlemagne at Alcuin, painted 1830 by Jean-Victor Schnetz, at the Louvre. (public domain)

Towering over the World War I battlefield at Verdun, a giant statue of Charlemagne—the Frankish king crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800 AD—rests its arms on a mighty broadsword. Inaugurated in 1929, the monument boldly announced France’s triumph over its German enemy a decade earlier by claiming the two countries’ shared progenitor as its own.

More recently, Charlemagne—or “Charles the Great,” as he is known in both French and German—and his 9th-century empire, which united France and Germany, have been evoked in support of a united Europe that is now faltering. Since 1950, prior to any political agreements, deserving promoters of European integration (including even a few Americans) have been awarded an annual “Charlemagne Prize” to celebrate contributions to what used to be called an “ever closer union.” That union now looks more and more like yesterday’s familiar patchwork of distinct nationalisms.

Janet L. Nelson’s meticulous biography of Charlemagne is as magisterial as the man himself. Writing a book