Friday, April 1, 2016
Making Monte Carlo: A History of Speculation and Spectacle
Rating: 4 Stars
I received this as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Normally as I read I make multiple notes with the aid of Goodreads. I update my progress constantly to keep track of thoughts and ideas I have as I go, in order to match them up to the page or percent I was on at the time. When looking back at my log of reading for this one, there is one single, solitary note at 60%:
"Elsa Maxwell is fascinating."
Seriously, that is all I wrote the entire time I was reading this one (which took me all of four days total because it was a fantastic, fun read that I did not want to put down).
And it is true. I had never heard of Elsa Maxwell before this, but the pages devoted to her and her relationship with Monte Carlo, as well as her life in general, made for a great read.
I have little interest in gambling in itself, but a special place in my heart for the glitz and glamour of the 1920s - the decade following WWI which saw Monte Carlo rise again as the destination for the rich and famous in Europe.
This is just as much a biography of sorts of Francois Blanc, the founder of Monte Carlo, as it is of the resort-casino itself. I have very little knowledge of the place as it is now - as I am neither rich nor famous - but as you might know if you have been reading my reviews for a while, I love history and am always looking for a good story. I found his life story to be a very interesting one, starting in his younger years with a variety of stock market scams, to his first successful casino ventures, to what can be considered his crowning achievement in turning Monte Carlo from a sleepy, small town into what we know it as today.
Aside from Blanc, there are numerous other names you will recognize - notably of course F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Picasso, and Hemingway. There will also be some you may be unfamiliar with, as I was. Worth mentioning a second time is Elsa Maxwell, who is best described as a party-planner to the stars so to speak. She was famous for the outrageous soirees she held and brought her magic touch to Monte Carlo to help revive the resort and bring it back to the forefront of society again.
Overall, this was a great read that I really enjoyed. It was a fast-paced read with a writing style that flowed well. Definitely recommended!