So­cial his­tory

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

The Riviera Set

Mary S. Lovell (Lit­tle Brown, £25)

From Greta Garbo and rita Hay­worth to Som­er­set maugham and Win­ston Churchill, mary S. Lovell’s be­guil­ing new book prac­ti­cally bursts its cov­ers with the names of the rich, fa­mous and down­right no­to­ri­ous. It’s per­haps ironic that the wo­man they all had in com­mon—the amer­i­can ac­tress max­ine el­liott—is now so lit­tle re­mem­bered.

born in maine in 1868, she had crammed the ex­pe­ri­ence of sev­eral life­times into the decades that pre­ceded her ar­rival on the newly fash­ion­able French riviera at the height of the roar­ing twen­ties. Cel­e­brated as much for her beauty as for her dra­matic abil­ity, el­liott had in­fil­trated the seem­ingly im­preg­nable ranks of the bri­tish aris­toc­racy with ease. It was even ru­moured that she had been the mis­tress of edward VII him­self. Clearly a force to be reck­oned with, she had no in­ten­tion of re­tir­ing with her mem­o­ries into a dig­ni­fied old age.

and so it was that, in 1930, she com­mis­sioned the up-and­com­ing young ar­chi­tect barry Dierks to build her a spec­tac­u­lar plea­sure palace, the Château de l’hori­zon, on the rocky stretch of coast be­tween Cannes and Juans-les-pins. In the process, she cre­ated an art Deco mas­ter­piece that’s as much the sub­ject of this bi­og­ra­phy as ei­ther its mis­tress or her myr­iad guests.

anec­dotes abound: of ram­pant in­fi­deli­ties and swim­ming pools filled with scent, of Ce­cil beaton and bob boothby ‘fight­ing like bears’ and hours spent de­lib­er­at­ing whether or not to curt­sey to the Duchess of Wind­sor. this is a giddy gal­lop through the ranks of the in­ter-war beau monde and some readers may be left breath­less at the end of the ride.

For­tu­nately, with miss Lovell, we are in safe hands. as tem­per­a­tures tum­ble and the nights draw in, The Riviera Set is a dream ticket to a lost world of seem­ingly per­pet­ual sun­shine. Martin Wil­liams

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.