Jena Henry's Reviews > Mistress of the Ritz

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read May 6, 2019 to May 7, 2019.

Mistress of the Ritz by bestselling historical fiction author Melanie Benjamin, features four main “characters”. The Mistress herself, Blanche Ross, an exuberant American flapper girl, is married to Monsieur Claude Auzello, the director/manager of the Hotel Ritz, Place Vendome, Paris. The Auzellos were real people and did live in the Ritz and run it, although not much is known about them.

The iconic Hotel Ritz, designed and built in 1898 by the equally iconic Cesar Ritz, is the third and perhaps most fascinating character. (Cesar’s partner was also iconic-Auguste Escoffier.) Many well-known and illustrious guests inhabited the elegant rooms and exquisite bars and dining rooms. And the fourth “character” is World War II and the German occupation of Paris, with its Luftwaffe headquarters in the Hotel Ritz. (All true, too.)

The story is told in the third person, alternately by Blanche and Claude, beginning in 1923, when they first meet. The debonair Frenchman’s heart “popped” when he beheld Blanche’s youthful beauty and flamboyant American personality. She gave him the nickname, “Popsy”. “Blanchette”, as he calls her, is fond of throwing vases at him- her passion is boundless.

The coming World War II, and subsequent German occupation of Paris looms over the story of Blanche and Claude, who it turns out have many secrets. When the Germans march past the Arch of Triumph, will the Auzellos cope, and will they and the Ritz survive? Haunting, compelling, troubling, emotional are all words I would use to describe this book.

If we changed the character’s names, the city and the war- we would have the story of “Gone With Wind.” Claude is Ashley, Atlanta is Paris, Tara is the Ritz and perhaps Hemingway can be Rhett. Certainly, Blanche is Scarlett and both women dealt with a major war. (And Scarlett liked to throw vases, too.) We readers love epic stories where seemingly ordinary people are shaped by a profound moment in history. But will Blanche succeed in growing up and finding herself, better than Scarlett did?

“As an armchair historian, I've always been drawn to stories from the past, stories that still resonate today—stories we may not know or remember. Untold stories, that explore the hidden corners, the locked closets behind the known historical record. Deeply personal stories, because history only comes alive when we remember that it was made by real people, people just like us. This is why I write novels about these people: Because facts are for the historian, but emotions are the province of the novelist.” Melanie Benjamin, Author

Author Benjamin has made the story of the Ritz, the war and the real people, just like us, come alive in a way that will continue to resonate with me. Readers will feel like they are sitting in the Ritz bar drinking martinis with Blanche. Did Blanche and Claude live happily ever after? Just like Scarlett, we don’t really know what their “tomorrow” brought, but I’m glad their story has been told.

Thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine and Delacorte Press for a digital review copy. This is my honest review.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Hardcover Edition)
May 6, 2019 – Started Reading
May 6, 2019 – Shelved
May 7, 2019 – Finished Reading
May 9, 2019 – Shelved (Hardcover Edition)

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Shelle Perry Lovely review

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