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Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 16, 2011
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"Tenacious digging into secret wartime records reveals a worsening case for the legendary French designer. Well rendered by Vaughan...a sorry story of war-time collaboration, exacerbated by the lack of reckoning during her lifetime." -Kirkus Reviews
"Sleeping with the Enemy" sheds new light on Chanel's dealings with the famously tight-lipped Wertheimer family... To this day, the family refuses to discuss Coco Chanel with the media, but Vaughan still manages to paint an engrossing portrait of the dealings between the two. --newyorker.com
"This is not a book about style or design. It is a frank and unsentimental portrait of a figure that fashion writers are nearly incapable of criticizing. -- Isabel Schwab, The New Republic
“[Hal Vaughan] ably demonstrates that Chanel was far from an innocent victim of circumstance during the second world war but a fully fledged Abwehr (German secret service) agent with her own number and codename: Westminster (no doubt a nod to her one-time lover, the Duke of Westminster). . . Vaughan, who writes with welcome economy and flair, deserves a lot of credit for finally unraveling the strands of Chanel’s deeply deceptive personality.”
—Tobias Grey, Financial Times
“[Sleeping with the Enemy] distinguishes itself from the many other Chanel biographies by tackling the dicey subject of Gabrielle Chanel’s activities during World War II . . . This is a frank and unsentimental portrait of a figure that fashion writers are nearly incapable of criticizing. . . While Vaughan’s discussions of Chanel’s contributions to fashion add nothing new to the extensive literature on her, he more than makes up for it with his impressive research and the never-before-seen information that he has unearthed about her wartime activities. . . . What Sleeping with the Enemy offers is a more rounded look at a figure who has been over-studied and under-examined.”
—Isabel Schwab, The New Republic online
“[A] compelling chronicle of Coco Chanel . . . a different Chanel from any you’ll find at the company store . . . by no means the account of an emerging style but a tale of how a single-minded woman faced history, made hard choices, connived, lied, collaborated and used every imaginable wile to survive and see that the people she cared about survived with her . . . Vaughan has gleaned many of the details of Chanel’s collaboration from documents that were scattered for years throughout European archives . . . It’s an astonishing story . . gripping . . . provocative . . . riveting history.”
—Marie Arana, The Washington Post
“Chanel’s war years, as explored by Hal Vaughan, are as camera-ready and as neck-deep in melodrama as Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” and just as hard to forget now that they’re exposed.”
—David D’Arcy, San Francisco Chronicle
"Hal Vaughan has done a stupendous job of research . . . Vaughan draws a brilliant portrait . . a terrific and fascinating story. . . wonderfully told, and full of great characters. . . Vaughan brings her to life so vividly that we understand why no less a judge than André Malraux said that "from this century in France only three names will remain: de Gaulle, Picasso, and Chanel.". . . It is that rarest of good reads, a biography about a famous person with a surprise on every page. Nancy Mitford, I think, would have loved it, and written a wonderful letter to Evelyn Waugh about it!"
—Michael Korda, The Daily Beast
About the Author
Hal Vaughan has been a newsman, foreign correspondent, and documentary film producer working in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia since 1957. He served in the U.S. military in World War II and Korea and has held various posts as a U.S. Foreign Service officer. Vaughan is the author of Doctor to the Resistance: The Heroic True Story of an American Surgeon and His Family in Occupied Paris and FDR’s 12 Apostles: The Spies Who Paved the Way for the Invasion of North Africa. He lives in Paris.
Top customer reviews
It's not high praise, but I did appreciate learning parts of Chanel's life that few people seem to be aware of. Friends thought it was just about fashion and intrigue, yet when I elaborated upon the book description, everyone I addressed had never heard those details.
She had admirers in high places such as Winston Churchill who helped her despite her crimes.
Also I found her relationships with men like Winston Churchill and the Duke of Westminster quite surprising. That Churchill, knowing of her perfidious relationship with her German lover, Dinklage, protected her from trial and execution is quite appalling.
There is little question that the Russian Revolution and the subsequent murder of the Royal Family horrified those in Europe that such a thing could have happened in any of the countries. Hitler saw Communism as greatly to be feared, as did the British and French. Also, historically German and England together have fought France, barring the First World War. There were remnants of that alliance referred to.
It was interesting to learn how well the upper classes fared in Paris, and to see the ordinary people looking through the garbage for food. The pictures with which this book is studded are helpful, although very small on the Kindle.
The research that went into this book is extensive. The writing is clear and informative. All in all, a good read.