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Extended Audio Sample Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, 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 Deakin Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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