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The Bugatti Queen

by Miranda Seymour

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802260,385 (3.96)3
Born in 1900 to a soon-to-be-widowed postmaster's wife in a small French village, Helene Delangle's background offered no suggestion of the extraordinary life she was to lead. The first step was to leave the country behind and head to the city -- in this case, a Paris in the grip of an intoxicating 1920s blend of creativity and debauchery. She became a dancer, and then a stripper. But the demi-monde of gauze veils and admirers was not enough. A visit to the Actors' Championships, a uniquely French meeting of the theatrical world with the race-track, opened her eyes to the glamorous combination of machines and speed. beautiful woman now known as Helle Nice -- Hellish Nice to her British fans -- then caught the attention of none other than Ettore Bugatti, founder of the marque with which her name will always be associated. And yet, despite the fame and the fortune she amassed in an unprecedented career, she died penniless and alone, an old woman in a crumbling Nice flat surrounded only by memories. happened to be a woman. Re-creating her rollercoaster career with great verve and panache, Miranda Seymour brilliantly shows us a life now forgotten -- and makes it unforgettable.… (more)
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Helene Delangle is one of those characters that seem too over the top to be real; a successful dancer, a daring race car driver, the proverbial self-made woman, and without an independent fortune to back up her hell-for-leather lifestyle. It appears that her great mistake was to forget that friends come and go but enemies accumulate, so that when the noted French driver Louis Chiron tried to label her as being a collaborationist, damn few spoke up for her, even if the slander appears to be mostly a product of spite. While I might have preferred that this book was structured more as a conventional history, there is no doubt that it would make a good movie! ( )
  Shrike58 | Jun 24, 2009 |
Miranda Seymour writes a Biography of Hellé-Nice (Mariette Hélène Delangle), a french race driver of the thirties. Frequent starter with a Bugatti or a Alfa Monza

Sometimes the author writes a novel, and fills the holes with "creative reconstruction" Another technique Ms Seymour uses is the speculative deconstruction of photographs. No doubt these reconstructions and deconstructions make for interesting reading. There will be occasions when they may indeed illuminate a subject, while at other times they will perhaps mislead. The problem is how can we tell when a speculation hits the target or when it sails wide?

Perhaps the book should contain a table of actual races, real facts that could be traced with information outside the obscured life of Ms Delangle.

In general the book makes a good story. ( )
  Delfi_r | Dec 27, 2008 |
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Born in 1900 to a soon-to-be-widowed postmaster's wife in a small French village, Helene Delangle's background offered no suggestion of the extraordinary life she was to lead. The first step was to leave the country behind and head to the city -- in this case, a Paris in the grip of an intoxicating 1920s blend of creativity and debauchery. She became a dancer, and then a stripper. But the demi-monde of gauze veils and admirers was not enough. A visit to the Actors' Championships, a uniquely French meeting of the theatrical world with the race-track, opened her eyes to the glamorous combination of machines and speed. beautiful woman now known as Helle Nice -- Hellish Nice to her British fans -- then caught the attention of none other than Ettore Bugatti, founder of the marque with which her name will always be associated. And yet, despite the fame and the fortune she amassed in an unprecedented career, she died penniless and alone, an old woman in a crumbling Nice flat surrounded only by memories. happened to be a woman. Re-creating her rollercoaster career with great verve and panache, Miranda Seymour brilliantly shows us a life now forgotten -- and makes it unforgettable.

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