Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This impeccably researched, lyrically told historical about a brash American woman and her French husband during WWII is a remarkable achievement. Blanche Ross Auzello doesn't care for being a proper, quiet wife, much to the dismay of her somewhat stuffy husband, Claude, the manager of Paris's luxurious Hotel Ritz. In June 1940, Claude returns from military service to find that a host of high-ranking Nazi soldiers have commandeered the hotel as their Paris headquarters. For the next four years, he and Blanche play unwilling hosts to the Germans-and, unbeknownst to each other, both begin working in the French Resistance. They narrowly avoid disaster until immediately before the Americans liberate Paris, when Blanche gets into trouble Claude can't resolve, and a shocking secret about Blanche's past is revealed. Benjamin (The Aviator's Wife) skillfully weaves in a host of historical figures-including Coco Chanel, alleged to be a Nazi sympathizer, and Ernest Hemingway-whose vibrant presences make Benjamin's protagonists and engaging group of supporting characters shine all the more. Even readers who aren't big fans of historical fiction might be swayed by this outstanding tale. Agent: Laura Langlie, Laura Langlie Agency. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An American ex-flapper and a Parisian hotelier weather the German takeover of the Paris Ritz.Benjamin's new novel is a lively portrait of the opulent grand hotel which drew Picasso, Hemingway, Cole Porterand Hermann Gring. In fact, more than a year before June 14, 1940, when invading Germans marched down the Champs Elysees, Gring and others were visiting Paris hotels to vet future Nazi headquarters. As the Occupation wears on, hotel director Claude Auzello and his American wife, Blanche, find it increasingly difficult to maintain their facade as the happily married team who run the Ritz. Their relationship was already challenged by Claude's announcement that he had reserved Thursday nights for his mistress. In his insistence that infidelity is a French male privilege, Claude can be insufferable, and Blanche, over the years, has been known to desert him, temporarily. On one such escapade, she befriends Lily, a young radical who goes off to fight in the Spanish Civil War before returning to Paris to draw Blanche into the Resistance. Blanche is disappointed by Claude's apparent willingness to toady to the Nazis who have become the Ritz's most privileged guests (along with a certain high-profile collaboratrice, Coco Chanel). The narrative ricochets between the 1920s, when the couple met, and the novel's present: the Occupation and its antecedents. Thanks to alternating points of view, readers are mostly privy to the secrets Blanche and Claude keep from one another. However, the delay in revealing the most critical secret of all, far from enhancing suspense, hamstrings the full exposition of Blanche as a character. The Auzellos were real people, and the facts of their lives are only a Google away. As Benjamin points out in her author's note, the Auzellos' story, though captivating, has not been often told, and the record is sparse. Benjamin hews closely to what is known, but the fully realized humanity of the Auzellos gets lost in the unknownthe realm where novelistic imagination is required.The Ritz itself is the most well-rounded character here. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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