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The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris Hardcover – March 11, 2014

3.8 out of 5 stars 253 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Similar to her work in The Secret of Chanel No. 5 (2011), Mazzeo’s latest threads a great many strands—stories of a war, a people, a city, a time and place—through a single bead: Paris’ Hotel Ritz. In a narrative style, Mazzeo holds a dizzying cast of persons of interest under glass as they sleep and work, meet and seek refuge in the then-Swiss-owned hotel, beginning with its grand Belle Epoque opening and focusing mainly on WWII and Paris’ German occupation. Truly, fiction could not write betrayal, resistance, collaboration, or celebration with more robustness or with a more alluring who’s-who of writers, artists, and military powers than history did in this single hotel. Amid chilling tales of the terrible ambiguities of war and the treatment and purging of enemies on all sides, Mazzeo offers lightness in her biography of an inarguably dark time through obvious care for her subjects. Friends and lovers abound, and all but the worst villains are showed multidimensionally, as Mazzeo contemplates the Ritz, Paris, and Europe in flux. --Annie Bostrom

Review

“This gorgeously written (and photographed) book is a feast for readers wanting to be swept away this summer. . . . Tracing the captivating history of Paris’s world-famous Hôtel Ritz, Mazzeo reveals a hotbed of illicit affairs and deadly intrigue, as well as stunning acts of defiance and treachery.” (Brad Thor, The Today Show Summer Reads)

“Stolen art, double agents, a legendary bartender passing notes to the resistance: This is a rich, messy history.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Mazzeo pulls back the heavy curtains of the Ritz in Paris to reveal a steamy world of sex, drugs, partying and political intrigue.” (Alan Riding, author of And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris)

“Mazzeo enthrallingly depicts a hotbed of both the magnificent and the mundane. . . . Readers will enjoy Mazzeo’s fascinating collection of secretive, scheming historical characters, all under one elegant roof.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Fiction could not write betrayal, resistance, collaboration, or celebration with more robustness or with a more alluring who’s-who of writers, artists, and military powers than history did in this single hotel. ” (Booklist)

“Tilar J. Mazzeo tells the tale of the Hotel Ritz, a landmark so imbued with glamour that it was the only hotel in Paris the Nazis ordered to stay open during the war. The antics at and around it during World War II were often shocking.” (New York Post)

“Must read. . . . Mazzeo artfully transports readers to the Nazi occupation of World War II . . . The Hôtel on Place Vendôme contextualizes the opulence of 1940s Paris, making for a work of history that reads as enticingly as a novel.” (Harper's Bazaar)

“An illuminating history of the intrigue and drama taking place inside its elegant façade. . . . The narrative reads like fiction, with the difference being accurate testimony from well-researched documents and interviews.” (Bookreporter)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061791083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061791086
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am up to page 33 of this book and already I have found two factual mistakes.
1. P 20 Serge Diaghilev is described as a " lithe ballet star", in fact he was a portly impressario.
He is also described as frequenting Coco Chanel's table at the Ritz. She is described as living there since the early 1930s. Diaghilev died in 1929!
2. P33 Sacha Guitry is described as a"young playwright" attending Parisian literary salons in 1897, which would make him 12 years old, young indeed.
Such errors seriously put the book's credibility in question
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most poorly written and superficial "history" book that I have ever read. It is so full of factual errors that it is almost impossible to absorb them, and the author makes statements throughout the book which have no truth whatsoever. They are far too numerous to mention, but a few of them include her statement that the American Assimilated Colonel Fred Wardenburg was called away from a hotel in Washington late one evening in 1944 and was at the Ritz Hotel in Paris the following morning. If his aircraft had flown by the fastest possible route, stopping only at Gander or Goose Bay, and then at Shannon or Prestwick, he would not have arrived in Paris until the following night.
This may seem trivial, but it is an example of the author's complete disinterest in facts. Another is her claim that Ernest Hemingway committed suicide ay his home in Key West. He did not. It was at his home in Ketchum, Idaho..
The author makes statements as though they were facts, when there is not a shred of truth to them. It is beyond pitiful, and a disgrace to literature.
It is sad that anyone would publish such a book., The publisher's proof reader left an unnecessary "t" after the word "only" on page 16. Very sloppy this. I wish I had my money back..
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An account of Paris's Ritz Hotel from the Dreyfus Affair to the 1968 student riots and beyond. For most of this time, the Ritz was the political and artistic center of Paris. Its tenants included Coco Chanel and assorted multimillionaires. Hemingway drank at the bar. Cocteau and Proust frequented the bar and the dining room. During the Occupation, Hermann Goering took over an entire floor, and small cells of the French Resistance were run by hotel staff, including the legendary Ritz bartender (inventor of some of the most popular cocktails of the period), Frank Meier. The Ritz was, in its heyday, much more than a mere hotel.

Tilar Mazzeo has found a novel lens on modern European history. Kudos to her. The book's narrative moves like gangbusters. However, the account is rather superficial. There are strong threads running through French politics from Dreyfus through the 1968 student riots in Paris, and Mazzeo doesn't examine these in any detail. She gives us instead a parade of celebrities, eccentrics, and the very interesting who flit by. We don't get to really know any of them. This wouldn't be so bad if the treatment of themes had been deeper. Mazzeo is welcome to her approach, but it doesn't lead to a meaningful history. If you want to know something of the French Resistance and the collaborationists, see Ophul's The Sorrow and the Pity instead.
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Format: Hardcover
Poorly written, laden with inaccuracies. Never should have been published without fact checking. Where did author get her information? Sources in notes often taken out of context.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not only filled with factual errors; it is very badly written in a style that combines gossip column chattiness with the breezy excitement of a naive, first year journalism student. It seems never to have been proof read by anyone. It is offensive to the history it purportedly means to represent. A book this badly written and factually cumbersome and inaccurate is a moral disgrace.

I will quote one section of a paragraph on pp.16-17 to give a brief sense of how absurd this book is: "While in Paris, the Führer made arrangements to meet one of the hotel's regulars, Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russe, the Russian ballet in Paris, to ask him personally to carry on making art in Paris. After all, that was what German conquerors wanted most: a luxurious modern playground and the ultimate Parisian experience. The disappointed ballet star managed to oversleep and miss the meeting–but he did carry on entertaining the occupiers."

That paragraph is so full of absurdities and errors and bad, gushy writing that I will leave it otherwise uncommented upon. I agree with other commentators. It is dismaying that a book this thoroughly bad, not to say so often wrong factually and throughout stylistically repellent, was published.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So many errors, inaccuracies and speculation make this book an exercise in gossipy historical novel writing but most certainly not a history book. Dates and facts are just dead wrong (an easy but by no means only example is Hemingway's death in Key West when most people --other than the author and her editor -- known that is was in Idaho).
The chapter on my father's actions during the Liberation of Paris is full of mistakes and bears no connection whatsoever to the Ritz, except, as the author notes on the basis of nothing, that my father's family "MUST" have known people who resided in or passed through the Ritz!
Not just disappointing but unacceptable.
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