Sunday, 21 August 2011
Here is the interview on Radio 4's Today programme that I did on Friday morning with Hal Vaughan, the author of 'Sleeping with the Enemy'; or try this link, to listen again. There is so much to say on the subject of Chanel's time in Occupied Paris during the Second World War -- hence the fact that I devoted several chapters in my book to those years -- and of course, it's impossible to cover all of that in a five minute radio slot, though I was very glad that the interviewer was the excellent Evan Davis (never condescending, whilst also assured).
There is much that I find interesting in Vaughan's book, although we may not agree on the conclusive significance of certain intelligence archives, and it's slightly unfair of him to say that no one has written about her war-time activities before (I have, and so have many others, including Pierre Galante, a former French intelligence officer, editor of Paris Match, and ex-husband of Olivia de Havilland). As it happens, I think it's ungracious to dismiss other writers who are absorbed in the same subject matter: we have all shared similar obsessions, sought out hidden mysteries, tried to piece together untold stories. If Chanel's life was composed of a series of secrets, then it is also open to many interpretations. As a writer, I remain fascinated by how many different versions of the truth can be composed -- whether in private family histories or sweeping historical narratives -- and the fierce debate that surrounds these varying narratives. I suppose that is in part the theme of 'Daphne' (which engages with Du Maurier's own researches into the enigmatic Brontes), and it also underpins my biography of Chanel.
More books about Chanel are coming this autumn: I'm looking forward to reading the next one, 'Intimate Chanel' by Isabelle Fiemeyer. Until then, I'm still thinking about Chanel, wondering about her motives, whilst always -- always -- interrogating my own...