I was taken in by the critical reception for this book, which appears to have been excellent. This is completely inexplicable to me.
It is clear in the first two chapters that there was never enough information to write a biography of Helene Delangle (aka Helle Nice). The author is understood to have written biographies before, and she obviously worked hard to scrape up information, but beyond limited correspondence, press cuttings and a couple of photo books, her subject left too little to rely upon for a book of this kind. She should have given it up and written a couple of features.
The author admits in the afterword (not, the foreword)"I have used imagination to recreate the story of Helle Nice's earliest years". An understatement if ever there was one. The text is littered with phrases like 'we can suppose', 'we can imagine that' etc. - by the second chapter I had lost all trust in the author as a professional historian.
For the Bugatti enthusiast, it is important to note the relationship between the subject and Ettore and Jean Bugatti is completely cooked up by the author, apparently from staring at photos. I have no doubt Ms Nice was an fascinating character, but I feel hardly closer to knowing her for having read this book. Did she have an affair with Maurice Chevalier? Who knows. Ms Seymour likes to think so. His eyes are twinkling in one of the photos of them together.