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Revealing secrets of the Paris Ritz Hotel

RitzWhen I originally downloaded the book Hotel on Place Vendome I thought it was historical fiction but once I started reading I discovered it was non-fiction which pleased me even more. Written and thoroughly  researched by Tilar J. Mazzeo, the book describes the opening of the world-famous hotel in Paris and its evolution from a modest, beautiful boutique hotel to the internationally-recognized institution it is today.

The main focus of the book centres around the years when it was occupied by the Germans during World War 2. Residents included Hermann Goering, who when he wasn’t living a drug-addicted lavish life in the Imperial Suite spent his time looting Paris of its precious works of art. Coco Chanel shared digs with her

Chanel was a permanent resident of the Ritz for most of her career.
Chanel was a permanent resident of the Ritz for most of her career.

German lover who was a high-ranking officer. After the war the couple fled to Austria where they lived for 10 years until his death. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given as to why Chanel did not suffer the same shameful fate as other collaborators. As the liberation of Paris approached in the summer of 1944, the German occupiers fled with as much confiscated artwork and antiques as they could manage.

The allied forces who took over Paris included new occupants at the Ritz Hotel such as Ernest Hemmingway, Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich. Petty disagreements over lovers, ego and accomplishments resulted and do not speak well of the individuals involved. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I thought it could have offered much more information and insight than it did. For that reason I’m giving it 7 out of 10.

 

 

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Capital pays high interest

There’s nothing more delicious than tucking into a really good book on a cool, cloudy afternoon. That’s what I did today and finished capital reading John Lanchester’s “Capital”, a book about the lives of a cross-section of Londoners faced with 21st century problems in their everyday lives. The book’s title references money and how the high price of real estate in a London neighbourhood is a catalyst in each of the characters’ lives. The homes on Pepys Road which were affordable when they were built now command insane sums of money. The City stock trader has a lot of it and his wife enjoys spending it. The immigrant Pakistani family at the corner has considerably less, working long hours seven days a week running the local grocery store. A Polish builder is employing his physical skills and strong character to save for a better future. A rookie professional footballer gets a taste of it. A Hungarian nanny’s ambitions are constantly challenged. An artist’s grandmother who is one of the original owners of a home on the street when they were built dies. A Zimbabwian traffic warden’s life as an illegal immigrant becomes entangled in the plot. Put all these fascinating characters into the pot, stir gently and a nice little plot as intriguing as Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” emerges.

The book has 107 short chapters which made me feel like I was making quick progress as I became increasingly more invested in the daily lives of each of the characters. The author intelligently and sensitively covers a number of issues including the death of a parent, greedy ambition, terrorism, parenting, love, ethics and the definition of success. When I read the last page late this afternoon I felt satisfied and happy. What more could you ask of a good book—a capital experience indeed.

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