Paris, 1940. The Nazis have occupied the city¬—and the Ritz. The opulent old hotel, so loved by Parisians, is now full of swaggering officers, their minions and their mistresses.
Content Trigger Warning: There are a couple of instances of sexual assault (not rape but other things). Details of some torture [mostly beating nothing to do with anything too gory], a miscarriage [and an abortion].
This is a story of Nazi-occupied Paris, so, it definitely got its dark bits.
I really felt Marius Gabriel captured the spirit of Paris and The Ritz in this and even more, he was more historically accurate than most others out there. I was so impressed with this book and I read it as if I were needing air haha I couldn’t put it down. I will say that at some parts Oliva’s chapters were too flowery for me, but, on the whole, I went from being a bit annoyed with her character to admiring her. I wasn’t sure what type of ending it would be as the novel did go quite dark, which was reasonable given the plots, but it was a really satisfying one.
Olivia is probably the least interesting of the three women; Coco Chanel, Arletty, and Olivia Olsen. She also though showed the greatest growth and in the end I did like her much more than I started off I have to say one of the reasons this only got four stars were the flowery bits of hers, she was a bit too naive and I felt myself during those parts wanting to get back to the others and see what they were doing!
Coco and Arletty were very dynamic and I wasn’t sure what I was going to get reading this book, maybe just some fluff, but it turned out to be more than that. Coco is shown more as we now know her to be, Nazi sympathizer (and spy for them in fact though this wasn’t touched on too much in the book, her espionage I mean) who was bitter about her business done with the Wertheimer and wanting what she felt was hers at any cost. Her love for women was written as casually as her love for men was, though this novel focused on her relationship with her Baron Nazi spy.
Arletty was even better though. She is presented to us at the beginning in a quiet relationship with a Countess and we watch her unable to do business with the Nazis due to her feelings on their ‘politics’ but falling in love with one anyway. She wants her career as an actress she wants to be free, and she will not be held down by what others want or expect of her.
We also have Heike, a woman who is hardened by life and by the fact that she’s not really a woman but trapped in a woman’s body, she’s a Nazi and though there’s some small sympathy for her, she’s a monster of the world and her own making.
[Both relationships of Coco and Arletty and their German lovers are true, as for their sexual orientations? Coco’s is pretty much fact at this point while Arletty’s can probably be assumed to be true.]
You were allowed to feel sympathy and revulsion at some parts, to look at the darker parts of the human soul and still allowed some hope. The writing is eloquent, the shift of the characters lets you know the author has thought greatly on how each perspective will be laid out for the reader and I look forward to reading more by Marius Gabriel.
I was allowed to read a free e-copy from NetGalley of this in exchange for my honest opinion. I’m not paid, I’m poor, a hobo really who just happens to like lovely books and this is one of them.
Also. ALSO. Guys. This is an actual quote from Arletty when questioned about her German lover: “My heart is French but my ass is international.”- Arletty (Leonie-Bathiat)