This book was a mind-blowing experience for me. I'll admit, I'm not extremely knowledgeable on French history other then main events in France during WW II. After reading this, that is something I'm planning on rectifying. I'm hoping to pick up Dawn of the Belle Epoque first, but any other recommendations you have, I'd love to hear them. This lack of basic information though meant this book gave me a huge amount of threads and good general connections but was simply overloaded with so much unknown information.
Not to say that this book was not enjoyable, far from it! Every page gave me something new to marvel over and another thread to connect. I believe however that I need another five readings to begin to retain all the amazing information packed into this book. The Ritz has truly seen amazing moments in history, both spectacular and terrible. It was a world apart, yet it's visitors brought the world in with them and they helped shape what was to come - good and bad - within its walls.
The cast of characters is massive and the list at the beginning of the text is necessary to keep everyone straight, as well as their relationships, which put soap operas to shame at times. Some are instantly recognizable today and others you may never have heard of, but their stories are compelling and part of a much larger narrative.
Mazzeo weaves the characters in and out of the text, as patterns overlap or complement each other. Her writing is easy to read as well as engaging and I read chunks of the text without realizing how far I'd come. It is a fast read, but packed full of history and peoples' lives.
My one issue is the end notes. There are simply too many to make them workable or even desirable to attempt and I believe footnotes would have been a far better choice. I know some find them annoying but they would have aided readers wishing to use them and streamlined the reading even more because you wouldn't be flipping to the back of the book constantly. However, I plan to make much use of her bibliography. And the Index was well done.
The one piece of information that has stayed with me even after several days is one that still astounds me. Marie Curie's son-in-law worked with Germans in a lab in Paris on their atomic research. Well, he 'worked'; he was secretly fighting for the resistance and the chief German scientist knew and protected him from the Gestapo!
I simply can't recommend this book enough; I learn a great deal and know that re-read will give me even more. I'm buying this as soon as possible!