Mistress of the Ritz
Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin is a World War II historical fiction novel based on the real life American who secretly worked for the Resistance while entertaining high ranking Nazis at the Ritz Paris.
Blanche Ross travelled to Paris as an actress where she met Claude Auzello, a hotel director. They married shortly after they met and soon began their life at the Ritz. While Claude managed the hotel, Blanche become known as the mistress of the hotel. She spent her days entertaining guests like Hemmingway, Fitzgerald and Picaso. She also had a long standing feud with Coco Chanel who lived permanently at the Ritz.
Blanche and Claude had a passionate and complex relationship. She left him many times and during one of these departures she meets a woman named Lily. Lily is a communist and during the war works with the Resistance. Over time Blanche becomes involved with the Resistance. The novels tells Blanche and Calude’s story through the war years. There are a few twists throughout the story that kept me turning the page. I read this book in two days so, there’s’ that. LOL!! I will say this, the last chapter is written from Lily’s perspective and it is so shocking. After turning the last page I did a little research and it turns out that the shocking ending is true! If you enjoy historical fiction, this book is well worth the read.
I’d like to say one thing about the tertiary character, Coco Chanel. This is probably the third book I’ve read that either takes place at or involves the Ritz Paris and involves Coco Chanel. I’ve done some research on Ms. Chanel’s life during the war. While living at the Ritz she was having an affair with a high ranking Nazi officer and was at one point a registered spy for the Nazis. After the war Coco Chanel managed to wiggle her way out of trouble and fled to Switzerland. She later returned to Paris and the fashion world. She lived out her days as a celebrity and passed away in 1971 at the Ritz. Most interesting of all is that a wealthy Jewish family, the Wertheimers, funded the creation of her iconic perfume, Chanel No. 5 in 1924. At that time they along with one other gentleman owned 90% of the perfume company. Although she tried to use her Nazi connections to gain full control of the perfume company it never came to be. The Wertheimers were also involved in her return to the fashion world after the war. The grandsons of the original Werthehimer brothers own the company today.
This is why I love historical fiction. I like researching history. I like learning new things. I hope your next read opens your mind, makes you reach for more, and brings you a broader perspective of the world. All the best books lead you forward in some small way.