WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS ~ Book Review “The Hotel on the Place Vendome”

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THIS BOOK WILL BE RELEASED IN MARCH 2014. 

(The only connection this has with perfume are in the Coco Chanel stories. You see, the book was so good I had to share it with you. This is a MUST read book for sure.)

An epic human drama that sweeps across the pages of history with might, misfortune and triumph, this is the story of “The Hotel on Place Vendome”.  The author Tilar J. Mazzio who wrote the endlessly fascinating, “The Secret of Chanel No.5” has created in this book about The Ritz Hotel in Paris a real page turner of a read. Sharply detailed, witty, brave, funny and tragic, it is a brilliant accomplishment.

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Everyone goes to the Ritz..

Like in the great World War II film, “Casablanca” everybody who is anybody in this true story goes to The Ritz. What happened in real life between the covers of this book surpasses anything of reel life that every came out of Hollywood in the golden age. Over the course of the story from the opening of the grand hotel to the end of the war a parade of unforgettable characters from Marcel Proust to Marlene Dietrich and everyone in between shows up to play out the most extraordinary drama.  The hotel staff, the permanent guests, the horizontal collaborators, the resistors, the conquerors, the liberators, the beautiful and the dammed, they are all here in these dazzling unforgettable pages.

The book opens with a cast of characters much like an old classic film from the thirties. Each is presented in a small capsule of words. Just enough is revealed to make the reader hungry for the story to begin. And begin it does with a cinematic sweep.

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“That was the day the Germans marched into Paris… I remember every detail, the Germans wore grey, you wore blue.”

With the arrival of the German Army and under Hitler’s order that “Paris remain happy and gay or else” the hotel stays open. The fear was that if they did not keep it going during the occupation it might be lost forever to its owners, the Ritz family. And in keeping it running over the course of the next five horrific years the hotel becomes a hub of French resistance, glittering parties, espionage, and horrific moments.

When Claire Booth Luce unbelieving that Paris was about to fall to the Nazis asked the hotel manager Claude Auzzelo: “How do you know the Germans are coming,” She said,

“Because Madame, they have reservations.”

The last night of freedom for the city is a stunning moment among many great moments in the book. Hemmingway, Arletty, Chanel, Picasso, operation Valkyrie, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hermann Göring and The Desert Rat, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel leap to vivid life on the page in one incredible story layered one upon the other.

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Chanel at the Ritz. Nazi spy or a heroine of the Resistance? 

I was amazed at the rich detail I found in this book. Tilar Mazzio in her research and interviews has unearthed a treasure of information about the hotel and its famed guests and fascinating employees. Research is not enough to make a great book. There has to be a great writer to tie the hundreds of story threads together and present them in a captivating way. Mazzio does this with great style, drama and timing. I just could not put the book down. Mazzio writes with such visual splendor and sweep that throughout my reading of it I kept thinking get this book to HBO. This is a mini-series crying out to be made.

“The Hotel on the Place Vendome” captures a time in history when the fate of Europe and the world itself hung in the balance between freedom and fascism. The seeds of modern Europe were planted in the Hotel Ritz and even though we know the outcome of World War II in fact, I was lost in the story and on the edge of my seat the entire time.

There comes the moment in the book when Major General Dietrich von Choltitz is sent the message from Hitler, “Is Paris Burning?”  I was chilled me to the bone at those words. What saved Paris? The answer is to be found in the Rue Cambon Bar at the Hotel Ritz and in this amazing and exciting book.

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“We’ll always have Paris.” 

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The hotel has its own scent. You can buy their perfume only in Pairs.

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Author of “The Hotel on the Place Vendome” and “The Secret of Chanel No.5” Tilar Mazzio

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