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The Many Lives of Miss K: Toto Koopman - Model, Muse, Spy

3.12  ·  Rating Details ·  66 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
A life of glamour and tragedy, set against the watershed cultural and political movements of twentieth-century Europe. "Toto" Koopman (1908–1991) is a new addition to the set of iconoclastic women whose biographies intrigue and inspire modern-day readers.

Like her contemporaries Lee Miller or Vita Sackville-West, Toto lived with an independent spirit more typical of the me
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Rizzoli Ex Libris (first published October 13th 2011)
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Aug 28, 2013 Alyssa rated it really liked it
Toto Koopman. Quite honestly, someone I'd never heard of before, and I felt like I should have known about her already. (And I'm a bit annoyed with myself that I didn't!)

I was utterly staggered by the range of her experiences, her cosmopolitan life… She seemed to have done and experienced more than a dozen people would in the same number of years.

For me the most interesting sections of the book were her concentration camp experiences, and how it affected her afterwards. It's a miracle that she d
The biography of Toto Koopman, an intriguing woman who lived life to the fullest, is told with contagious enthusiasm by her biographer Jean-Noël Liaut. He takes us to the most vibrant and exciting scenes in 20th century Europe: Paris in the '20s and '30s, the gruesome '40s in Italy and the German camps, London in the '50s and '60s, Sicilian islands where the artistic elite gathers to holiday - the list goes on and on.

The same can be said about the heroine of the story, Toto Koopman; successful m
Jul 25, 2016 Brynn rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
I was more interested in her spy days than her post war art world days. Unfortunately, very little is known about her activities during the war. Overall, a frustrating lack of details about much of her life.
Sep 01, 2013 Gaele rated it it was amazing
In what must have been a herculean undertaking, Liaut manages to provide readers with the essence of Toto Koopman, while presenting that information in a way that we also understand that the subject of this biography was notoriously vague about her past. The child of a Dutch father and a mixed-race Indonesian mother, her early life was spent in Java until she was sent to boarding school in Holland and on to a finishing school in the UK. While the uniquely divided nature of the social classes and ...more
Sep 06, 2013 Lucy rated it really liked it

Miss K. stands for legendary icon and more, Catharina “Toto” Koopman. Born in Indonesia in 1908- her father was Dutch and her mother was half Indonesian with Chinese ancestry. And although at the time this was cause for much prejudice and segregation, Toto did not seem affected by this at all. In fact, she became to be the first- and very acclaimed bi-racial celebrity model. Under the tutelage of Coco Chanel, Toto became famous in her own right, spearing ahead to become more than just a glamouro
Mar 18, 2015 Tamsen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought that this woman had an amazing life but found the writing of the story to be less than engaging. It picked up a bit past the middle but by then I was already a bit turned off. Shame, because this woman's story is exceedingly rich! It just needed all her stories and life experience to be put into a wider cultural context, whether that be lgbtq history, war and the resistance movement, the art scene. Everything is touched on with simple sentences, but not really explored, leaving one to ...more
Jan 01, 2014 Chrissy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
So much of this book seems unbelievable, and indeed much is unknown or unprovable (Who involved Toto in spying in Italy. If it was official it seems like it could be investigated. And her Hitchcokian death under such mysterious circumstances with her many friends looking on and unable to do anything to help her is so odd.) But just sticking to the absolute facts, the story amazing, that a biracial, bisexual, independant woman could thrive in high society in the midcentury and live just as she ...more
Catherine Byers
Oct 01, 2013 Catherine Byers rated it it was ok
The hype about the first biracial fashion model was not followed by a good book. Maybe something was literally lost in translation from its original Drench. Miss K, Toto Koopman, was a self indulgent prima donna and social climber. She becomes much more sympathetic when arrested and sent to a concentration camp during WWII. But after the war, she is back to her old tricks. The writing is passably entertaining, but the frequent use of unnamed sources detracts from the book's credibility. It's a ...more
Jan 03, 2015 Jessie rated it it was ok
This woman led a fascinating life of polar extremes.... high personal sexual freedom denied to her gender and race and then the low of persecution and confinement of being a prisoner during the war. The low stars is due to the telling of the story as I wanted details but felt like her stories were glossed over or told in passive proses. I wanted to know more about how she healed from such trauma and less about her later life dealing with a bratty artist.
Dec 07, 2013 Michaela rated it really liked it
This woman was incredible. The only thing keeping this from receiving 5 stars is that the author was unable to secure any private correspondence of the somewhat private Toto Koopman. Still, she was a true rebel and it would have been fascinating to know her.
Nov 10, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
Interesting woman, but read like a string of anecdotes and a who's who of rich mid-century socialites. There wasn't enough first hand information.
Patricia Jean
Dec 13, 2013 Patricia Jean rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Fascinating character who deserved a better biographer. In the end it came off as an overlong Vanity Fair article and Toto never came alive.
Feb 20, 2016 Jen rated it liked it
A fast paced story about a remarkable woman's life. An overload of name dropping where most names were completely irrelevant, but still an interesting story.
Susan Mathieu
Susan Mathieu rated it really liked it
Jul 31, 2015
Holly Tomte
Holly Tomte rated it liked it
Sep 12, 2014
Elka rated it it was amazing
Dec 16, 2015
Saana Baker
Saana Baker rated it liked it
Jan 27, 2015
Maryka Biaggio
Maryka Biaggio rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2015
Aug 17, 2015 Pcox rated it liked it
Writing is a bit superficial but her life was interesting.
Sallychap72 rated it liked it
Jun 10, 2014
Andrew rated it liked it
May 14, 2014
Beth rated it it was ok
Nov 08, 2013
Geri rated it it was ok
Nov 15, 2014
Tricia rated it liked it
May 02, 2014
Colleen rated it really liked it
Sep 28, 2014
Magnus Henriksson
Magnus Henriksson rated it it was ok
Oct 24, 2013
Timothy G. Miller
Timothy G. Miller rated it it was ok
Apr 25, 2014
Josien rated it liked it
Apr 27, 2016
Tami rated it liked it
Nov 29, 2013
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