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The Riviera Set Paperback – 6 Jul 2017
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I loved every word (Sarra Manning Red)
Lovell dissects their lives and curates the interesting parts, bringing together the creme of high society. A sparkling group biography that brings to life a bygone era (The Lady)
Lovell wears her detailed research lightly and has produced a sprightly, well-paced account, rich in fascinating anecdote . . . an entertaining and zesty read (Sunday Express)
Lovell is superb on the great villas of the Riviera (The Times)
[A] blissful book - it's like basking in the warm Med (Rachel Johnson Mail on Sunday)
Mary S Lovell's social history is a meticulously researched and highly entertaining story about the characters who populated this decadent world . . . confiding and intimate, and it's an illuminating read (Hannah Beckerman Observer)
A portrait of high society in the twentieth century, told through the stories of the guests of Maxine Elliott and Prince Aly Khan at the Château de l'Horizon in Cannes.See all Product description
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The only reason this has 3 stars is that I was very disapointed with how the publishers have treated the kindle edition. Whilst reading the book, I googled a lot of the people and places to see their images. When I reached about 65% through my Kindle edition, the book ended and there are a series of tiny photos which are totally separate from the txt and unreferenced in the index. I then thought to view it on my ipad - even worse - the shots are literally the size of a passport photo and very poorly reproduced. The book is fascinating - perhaps a little long in places, about Winston Churchill, but stilll an interesting bit of social history I knew nothing about - but the kindle price does not reflect the poor quality of the whole experience. I wish I'd waited for it in paperback.
It peaked for me after the first two thirds of the book which were truly brilliant (although I agree that certain parts of it felt like a compilation of excerpts from the author's previous books about Churchill, the Windsors and their contemporaries to give us the story of the central figure - the villa, and as such it didn't flow as well as it could have done in my opinion). After the end of the Second World War and the subsequent purchase of the villa by Aly Khan the book loses its way a little, owing probably to the fact that it is used far less than it was in its heyday under the ownership of Maxine who dominates the earlier part of the book.
I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in recent history and the glamour which surrounded British aristocracy, European jet setters and the fledgling Hollywood elite who were infiltrating "old money". Especially interesting when set against both the depression and rationing of the First and Second World Wars, and a telling portrayal of how "celebrity" has changed between then and now.
If I were to be very picky, there are a couple of inconsistencies (at one point the Reves' are not fans of Onassis, and a couple of pages later he is described as a "friend") and the editing is a little lazy but that doesn't effect the overall enjoyment of the book.
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