Chapter 14 - Paris Is Always A Good Idea
While the title of the book above comes from a quote by Audrey Hepburn, I personally am inclined to agree with it. As I mentioned a few weeks ago I am on a France kick right now and have been consuming books about France, both fiction and nonfiction, as if they were eggs on sale, and as you know based on the price of eggs, that could be a lot.
France is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of coastal Europe and, as such, has found itself the sad host to many invading armies and subsequent battles. While bigger than many of its European neighbors, it is about the size of two Colorados here in the states. The country has a very broad climate with significant differences between regions. In addition, the regions have very different personalities, so as you can imagine, all sorts of stories abound.
Here are some more of my favorites.
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo - Most people know of Veuve Cliquot champagne, one of the most famous from France. This is the story of Barbe-Nicole Cliquot who, as a young widow, continued her husband's dream to become a wine manufacturer in France. Dealing with death, drought, and war, this women surpassed her late husband's modest dreams and founded the empire Cliquot Ponsardin that we know today. This was a wonderful nonfiction read.
Escape to the French Farm House by Jo Thomas - After struggling with infertility issues Del and her husband Ollie decide to move to Provence. Within six weeks, Ollie is leaving and Del is dealing with a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. Here she sets about reclaiming her life in the beautiful lavender filled fields of Provence. This would be a great vacation read!
The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel - Harmel has kept France as her focus in many of her books and honestly, each one is a winner. In this story which goes between 1940's France and 2019 New York, two women in the French countryside struggle to maintain their livelihoods and keep their families safe during a very turbulent time in French history.
The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo - Who knew that the Ritz was a hotbed of spies and French Resistance in World War II? Owned by Swiss hoteliers, the Ritz Hotel was ostensibly neutral ground when the Germans invaded Paris during the war. Separated into two distinct sides, one housing the German occupation hierarchy, the other available to all, the Ritz was the gathering place of both the hunters and the hunted. Another nonfiction book by Mazzeo revealing parts of the war otherwise unknown.
Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin - If you are not really into nonfiction but would like a great novelized account of the same place and time as the book above, this is the book to read. In June 1940 the Germans swept into Paris and into the Ritz. Blanche and Claude Auzello were there to meet them as Claude was the director of the hotel at the time. Blanche, an American woman, served as the hostess of the hotel and gleaned many secrets from the boisterous and indiscreet Nazi officers who lived there which she then turned over to the Resistance. Melanie Benjamin's stories are always interesting and very well researched.
Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and Its Treasures During World War II by Gerri Chanel - As early as August, 1939 the curators at the Louvre were working to evacuate priceless art works from the Louvre as they saw the handwriting on the wall and the progression of Hitler's troops. As the Nazis pursued these artworks, they were moved time and again throughout the country. This is the story of their travels and the bravery of the people who hid them.
I promise this is my last post of books about France! I am taking off the next few weeks to cross something off my life list. See you again at the beginning of May when I'll tell you all about it!