New Nonfiction: Hotel on Place Vendome – Tilar J. Mazzeo

Mazzeo made her name with the success of her first book, The Widow Clicquot, a story of the shrewd, smart widow who steered Veuve Clicquot champagne to a renown that has lasted centuries. That book worked because of Mazzeo’s ability to enliven history with strong narrative through lines, an intimate understanding of character and period, and the ability to bring it all vividly to life.

Mazzeo followed that up with another cultural history with a strong woman at the center—The Secret of Chanel No. 5. Reviews of that book called it “enticing” (USA Today) and noted that “[i]mpeccable research and crafting make a seemingly narrow topic feel infinitely important.” (Kirkus)

Now Mazzeo turns her attention to a topic of perennial interest, WWII. This is the story of the famous, infamous and unknown who occupied the Paris Hôtel Ritz during the war—the celebrities, journalists, Nazi officials, and staff who served the Nazis while working for the resistance. Our marketing copy does not oversell this engaging tapestry of tales when it claims this is “a tale of glamour, opulence, and celebrity; dangerous liaisons, espionage, and resistance.” I blew up the cover shot on this one because it perfectly captures the dishy, romantic wartime glamour of the read.

Mazzeo’s latest threads a great many strands–stories of a war, a people, a city, a time and place-through a single bead: Paris’ Hotel Ritz. . . . Truly, fiction could not write betrayal, resistance, collaboration, or celebration with more robustness or with a more alluring who’s-who of writers, artists, and military powers than history did in this single hotel. ”

“The Paris Hôtel Ritz evokes 20th-century glamour, smoke-filled air, and hard-drinking patrons with names like Picasso, Proust, Hemingway, and Chanel. WWII, however, brought Nazis, adding to the odd mix of Allied spies posing as German officers, members of the Resistance, and ambitious American journalists desperate to score the next scoop. Mazzeo enthrallingly depicts a hotbed of both the magnificent and the mundane, the careless carousing and deep-seated tensions that kept the hotel a primary meeting place for both Allied and Axis agents…. The stories of the hotel staff members who publicly served Hitler’s trusted officials while privately supporting the Resistance reveal particularly heroic undertakings. Readers will enjoy Mazzeo’s fascinating collection of secretive, scheming historical characters, all under one elegant roof.”
Publishers Weekly

The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris (9780061791086) by Tilar J. Mazzeo. $25.99 hardcover. 3/11/14 on sale.

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