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Book Talk: Coco at the Ritz, or Courting Controversy

  • Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30 p.m.

  • Book Talk: Coco at the Ritz, or Courting Controversy

  • With Gioia Diliberto • In English • Onsite only

  • Free for members and students* / $15 Non-members with a glass of rosé

  • Entrée Libre *Register with .edu email address or present Student ID

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Gioia Diliberto in conversation with Chicago author Rita Dragonette

Book sale and signing session with author to follow program.

By the time the Vichy government descends upon France, Coco is no longer the youthful 20-something she once was. She’s getting older, but she’s back in Paris hoping to get her nephew released from German custody. When she arrives, she meets the dashing and effortlessly charming Hans Günther “Spatz” von Dincklage—a Nazi spy who is 13 years her junior—and the two begin a whirlwind wartime romance.

Flash forward to late August 1944. The war is about to end, and Coco is arrested and interrogated on charges of treason to France—charges that grow out of her proximity to Spatz. Two French soldiers lead Coco from her suite at the Ritz to an undisclosed location for questioning. What transpired during her interrogation, who was present, and why she was set free remains a mystery.

Gioia Diliberto’s brilliantly insightful and compulsively readable novel explores Coco’s motivations and portrays the gripping battle of wits that could have been her interrogation. By turns raw and vulnerable, steely and flawed, Coco Chanel emerges from these pages as a woman who owns her decisions, no matter the consequences. In Coco at the Ritz, Gioia lays the facts on the table and lets the reader decide what to make of this complex and controversial woman.

Gioia Diliberto has written biographies of Jane Addams, Hadley Hemingway, Diane von Furstenberg, and Brenda Frazier, as well as the critically acclaimed novels I Am Madame X and The Collection. Her books, which center on the lives of women, have been translated into several languages. As a journalist, Gioia has contributed to many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Smithsonian, and Vanity Fair. She also teaches writing and has taught at Northwestern and DePaul Universities and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Gioia lives with her husband in Woodbury, Connecticut.

Rita Dragonette is the author of the award-winning debut novel The Fourteenth of September, a woman’s story of Vietnam. She lives and writes in Chicago, where she also hosts literary salons to showcase authors and their new books to avid readers.

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