Coco at the Ritz

Written by Gioia Diliberto
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

Coco at the Ritz takes us back to France right after the end of World War II when France has been liberated, and those who cooperated with the Nazis are being interrogated. Coco Chanel, famed fashion icon, is summoned from her rooms at the Ritz Hotel to a police station, where she is asked to account for her relationship with a German officer. During the interrogation, we look back at Coco’s time at the Ritz during the war and her relationship with Baron Hans Guenther von Dincklage, also known as “Spatz,” a German intelligence officer. Sharp scissors stand at the ready, as women who slept with Nazi soldiers during the occupation are considered traitors and will have their hair cut off and heads shaved out of vengeance.

This fascinating book takes a closer look at Chanel, her powerful personality, and her activities during the occupation of France. Intriguing questions are raised in this fictional take on a true story. Did Chanel assist Spatz as a spy during the war? Was Spatz just an innocent man forced into military service by his country? Why did Chanel return to the Ritz when she knew it was occupied by German officers? Did she really stay in Paris to try and wrest control of Chanel No. 5 from the Jewish Wertheimers, directors of Parfums Chanel, who had fled? Did Winston Churchill save her from prosecution? Some of these questions may never publicly have answers. However, the author shows us that for Chanel, nothing existed except the world of fashion and her position as queen of that world. This compelling book shows us a side of Chanel’s personality we may not have known before, and we meet a complex woman who was talented and powerful, but also vain and manipulative. Highly recommended.