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Extended Audio Sample Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanels Secret War Audiobook, by Hal Vaughan Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (472 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Hal Vaughan Narrator: Susan Denaker, Mark Deakins Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2011 ISBN: 9780307969200
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“From this century, in France, three names will remain: de Gaulle, Picasso, and Chanel.” –André Malraux

Coco Chanel created the look of the modern woman and was the high priestess of couture.

She believed in simplicity, and elegance, and freed women from the tyranny of fashion. She inspired women to take off their bone corsets and cut their hair. She used ordinary jersey as couture fabric, elevated the waistline, and created bell-bottom trousers, trench coats, and turtleneck sweaters.

In the 1920s, when Chanel employed more than two thousand people in her workrooms, she had amassed a personal fortune of $15 million and went on to create an empire.

Jean Cocteau once said of Chanel that she had the head of “a little black swan.” And, added Colette, “the heart of a little black bull.”

At the start of World War II, Chanel closed down her couture house and went across the street to live at the Hôtel Ritz. Picasso, her friend, called her “one of the most sensible women in Europe.” She remained at the Ritz for the duration of the war, and after, went on to Switzerland.

For more than half a century, Chanel’s life from 1941 to 1954 has been shrouded in vagueness and rumor, mystery and myth. Neither Chanel nor her many biographers have ever told the full story of these years.

Now Hal Vaughan, in this explosive narrative—part suspense thriller, part wartime portrait—fully pieces together the hidden years of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s life, from the Nazi occupation of Paris to the aftermath of World War II.

Vaughan reveals the truth of Chanel’s long-whispered collaboration with Hitler’s high-ranking officials in occupied Paris from 1940 to 1944. He writes in detail of her decades-long affair with Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage, “Spatz” (“sparrow” in English), described in most Chanel biographies as being an innocuous, English-speaking tennis player, playboy, and harmless dupe—a loyal German soldier and diplomat serving his mother country and not a member of the Nazi party.

In Vaughan’s absorbing, meticulously researched book, Dincklage is revealed to have been a Nazi master spy and German military intelligence agent who ran a spy ring in the Mediterranean and in Paris and reported directly to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, right hand to Hitler.

The book pieces together how Coco Chanel became a German intelligence operative; how and why she was enlisted in a number of spy missions; how she escaped arrest in France after the war, despite her activities being known to the Gaullist intelligence network; how she fled to Switzerland for a nine-year exile with her lover Dincklage. And how, despite the French court’s opening a case concerning Chanel’s espionage activities during the war, she was able to return to Paris at age seventy and triumphantly resurrect and reinvent herself—and rebuild what has become the iconic House of Chanel.


From the Hardcover edition. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • [Hal Vaughan] ably demonstrates that Chanel was far from an innocent victim of circumstance during the second world war but a fully fledged Abwehr (German secret service) agent with her own number and codename: Westminster (no doubt a nod to her one-time lover, the Duke of Westminster).  . . Vaughan, who writes with welcome economy and flair, deserves a lot of credit for finally unraveling the strands of Chanel’s deeply deceptive personality. Tobias Grey, Financial Times
  • [Sleeping with the Enemy] distinguishes itself from the many other Chanel biographies by tackling the dicey subject of Gabrielle Chanel’s activities during World War II . . . This is a frank and unsentimental portrait of a figure that fashion writers are nearly incapable of criticizing. .  . While Vaughan’s discussions of Chanel’s contributions to fashion add nothing new to the extensive literature on her, he more than makes up for it with his impressive research and the never-before-seen information that he has unearthed about her wartime activities. . . . What Sleeping with the Enemy offers is a more rounded look at a figure who has been over-studied and under-examined. Isabel Schwab, The New Republic online 
  • [A] compelling chronicle of Coco Chanel . . . a different Chanel from any you’ll find at the company store . . . by no means the account of an emerging style but a tale of how a single-minded woman faced history, made hard choices, connived, lied, collaborated and used every imaginable wile to survive and see that the people she cared about survived with her . . . Vaughan has gleaned many of the details of Chanel’s collaboration from documents that were scattered for years throughout European archives . . . It’s an astonishing story . . gripping . . . provocative . . . riveting history. Marie Arana, The Washington Post
  • Chanel’s war years, as explored by Hal Vaughan, are as camera-ready and as neck-deep in melodrama as Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” and just as hard to forget now that they’re exposed. David D’Arcy, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Hal Vaughan has done a stupendous job of research . . . Vaughan draws a brilliant portrait . . a terrific and fascinating story. . . wonderfully told, and full of great characters. . . Vaughan brings her to life so vividly that we understand why no less a judge than André Malraux said that "from this century in France only three names will remain: de Gaulle, Picasso, and Chanel.". . . It is that rarest of good reads, a biography about a famous person with a surprise on every page. Nancy Mitford, I think, would have loved it, and written a wonderful letter to Evelyn Waugh about it! Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 2/20/2014

    " Not really as advertised. Coco Chanel may not have been anyone's idea of a sweet woman, but she did not really engage in activities with the enemy--except for reprehensibly trying to steal the Chanel perfume company from its Jewish owners. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kimberly Anderson | 2/10/2014

    " Much more about war than you might suspect ... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sondra | 1/25/2014

    " I did not realize the extent of Chanel's collaboration with the Nazis in Occupied Paris, until reading this book. Little was know about Chanel's life during this time, and she did her very best to pay people off and to conceal it. Chanel was definitely an ambitious, opportunistic woman, and it appears she used Occupied Paris to her benefit as well. From what I know of Chanel, I was not entirely surprised by her blatant antisemitism or her caring little that most of the French were starving, looking for food in the streets, while she lived the high life at the Ritz. But it made me quite sad, that such a brilliant, iconic woman could be so short-sighted and so full of neglect and hate. I found Vaughan's book alarming, but also very informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debra Stahl reich | 1/24/2014

    " Important historical account of the Nazi dealings of a fashion icon. Book offers reasons why Chanel was virulently anti-semetic, as well as inclined to spy for the Nazis during the war. Chanel was abandoned by her parents at a young age and raised by nuns; she had numerous relationships with men, all whom she perceived as abandoning her, even in their deaths, and had no trouble abandoning her own country. In short, Coco Chanel is depicted in this account as an opportunistic, independent and self-serving woman whose goal was to be rich and mingle in the highest circle's of European nobility. Sadly, her talent as an artist is quickly overshadowed by her self-serving lifestyle. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terri | 1/13/2014

    " I must start by saying that I love Chanel clothing and accessories. I had heard before that madmoiselle Chanel was a nazi collaborator butto see some of the documents as proof was fascinating. There was a reason she survived and succeeded she was cunning, wiley and shrewed. Self preservation was all she was about. The point now is should one stop buying chanel porducts because of what it's founder did and felt 70 years ago. I guess thats whats up for discussion. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Avery Mayne | 1/5/2014

    " Incredible Story about an incredible woman. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marianne | 12/25/2013

    " A riveting and well researched book on Chanel's treachery during WWII. This is exceptional. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Simone Lehmann | 12/8/2013

    " Fascinating. Thoroughly researched, fairly presented, and engagingly written, it fleshes out the war-time episodes of Chanel's extraordinary life that the Picardie biography just wasn't able to cover. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gerard | 12/6/2013

    " Great book. Well written. I remember Coco Chanel when I was young in France. Finally all is out about her caracter; a genius, a traitor, and yet I still think she was one of the great influences of the 20th century. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Chris Mulvey | 11/16/2013

    " Could not get interested - reads like a textbook. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judystitches | 10/7/2013

    " Fascinating. I had no idea that she was so involved with the Nazi's. Book sorta slogged along but I was so interested in her machinations that I kept at it and am glad that I did. Did not really care for the author's style. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vagabond | 8/19/2013

    " While I found the details of Chanel's life and the war interesting, I didn't think that Mr Vaughan proved anything. The book actually raised more questions for me regarding the activities of Chanel and her group. So, I would sayebook is interesting but inconclusive. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 12/10/2012

    " Amazingly quick read... definitely put Chanel in a different light.. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nancy | 12/7/2012

    " Although the book was a bit too detailed, I truly enjoyed the history of Chanel's evolution, including her rebellious behaviours. But I think that what I enjoyed the most is the context of history in which Chanel's story is embedded. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Deigh | 6/16/2012

    " I bet this is a story you don't hear at the perfume counter at Macy's - I sure knew nothing about her collaboration with the Nazi's during WWII or the coverup afterward. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amy | 2/17/2012

    " Good thing I can't afford to buy Chanel... Cause I wouldn't after reading this..... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Frances | 1/2/2012

    " I wanted more about her after the war experience, challenges and remorse. It did help bring to life WW II and another view I hadn't expected. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Denise | 12/29/2011

    " Finished reading this! Very suprised that Coco Chanel was not a good person. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon | 10/21/2011

    " made me so disappointed in Chanel as a human being "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gerard | 9/10/2011

    " Great book. Well written. I remember Coco Chanel when I was young in France. Finally all is out about her caracter; a genius, a traitor, and yet I still think she was one of the great influences of the 20th century. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Shaima | 9/3/2011

    " It's like voluntarily reading a textbook. The writing is beyond dull. A bit informative "

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About the Narrators

Susan Denaker is an actress and Earphones Award–winning narrator. Her extensive theater credits include numerous plays in the West End of London, national tours, many English rep companies, including a season with Alan Ayckbourn’s company in Scarborough. In the US, she has appeared in Our Town and Sweet Bird of Youth at the La Jolla Playhouse and Breaking Legs at the Westport Playhouse.

Mark Deakins is an actor whose television appearances include Head Case, Star Trek: Voyager, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His film credits include Intervention, Star Trek: Insurrection, and The Devil’s Advocate. He recently wrote, directed, and produced the short film The Smith Interviews.