Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Review - A Dangerous Woman by Susan Ronald

"never allow the facts to get in the way of a good story"

The title says it all: American beauty, noted philanthropist, Nazi collaborator. "A Dangerous Woman" by Susan Ronald is a compelling, well written tale of a vain, money-grasping woman, who constantly re-invented herself to suit the moment. Author Susan Ronald does well with the material at hand to unpick the intricately woven pieces of Florence's life as there is still much documentation that is kept under lock and key, and thus inaccessible to the author.

Susan Ronald describes this elusive woman as one who "craved significance", had an insatiable "lust for phenomenal wealth", and a seemingly bottomless desire "be be loved". Ronald says that these three elements were "the driving forces behind who she was and what she did".

Indeed, much of Florence's earlier life was devoted to being the centre of attention, and acquiring wealth, through means honourable and not so honourable. After failing to gain access into the influential French Salons and a stint as a Ziegfeld Girl, it was finally with her marriage to millionaire Frank Gould that the couple were able to build their "entertainment empire" on the French Riviera and in Monaco, and give to Florence what she craved most - wealth.

And it was through a steady stream on influential lovers during the German occupation of France that Florence was able to maintain her position; she carried on as if the 'war and occupation were inconveniences to be overcome". It was her unparalleled freedom to move throughout France during the occupation that was to later give rise to rumour, scandal, and charges of collaboration and treason. Much post-WWII scandal had no affect on her later philanthropic activities as a major donor to the Metropolitan Museum.  Upon her death, the bulk of her estate was sold and the proceeds (totaling approx. $64 million), given to the Florence Gould Foundation.

As one reviewer noted, maybe money can buy happiness.

reviewed @ Goodreads, and more reviews here
@ Kirkus Review
@ Macmillan Publishers
@ Publisher Weekly

More about Florence Gould here
@ Boston Globe
@ New York Times - Obituary
@ The Forward

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