Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Bugatti Queen by Miranda Seymour



I very much enjoyed Miranda Seymour's biography Robert Graves, Life on the Edge, so it was with much anticipation that I started her biography of Hélène Delangle, or as she called herself Hellé Nice. One of these women that seem to embrace life and go for it.

She was born in a small French village in 1900. The 1920s saw her in Paris and its swinging life. She started out as a model for nude photos, took ballet and dance lessons and entered show business. She had numerous lovers, she really could not stay with anyone for long. Many of them within her own business, and many of them within the car racing business. That is how she became one of the best and most famous women in the car racing area.

She was fearless and loved to challenge life. And, she was interesting in winning which made her a fierce competitor.
"Hélène charted out her own course of victories in the ALps. Bobsleighing and skiing in the winters, she spent each summer with Kléber Balmart, one of France's finest skiers, climbing L'Aiguille Verte, Le Greppon Bland and Mont Blanc. In 1925, she noted with satisfaction that she had climbed Mont Blanc again, and by the most dangerous route; photographed at the end of the climb, she beamed down at the camera, glowing with the pleasure of a goal achieved."
Once she entered into the car racing business there was nothing holding her back. She broke speed records that stood the time, competing against men in competitions where women were allowed in. Otherwise in women's racing. She did consider herself good enough to compete with men, so that was her favourite runs. The competitions took her around Europe, North Africa, USA and South America.

Miranda Seymour has, once again, written an exciting life story of a woman who is rather little known today. As so often happens, it was just a coincidence that she 'ran into' Hellé Nice, and it was not always easy to find facts about her life. Even so, Seymour has done a wonderful work with her research, stayed with the facts she found and given us a fascinating story of a woman who conquered the world and her times by her own efforts. Highly recommendable.

Miranda Seymour has written several biographies as well as fiction. Here some biographies that I just have to read; A Ring of Conspirators: Henry James and his literary circle, 1895-1915, Ottoline Morrell: Life on the Grand Scale, Mary Shelley, In Byron's Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron's Wife and Daughter: Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace. 

Now there are two favourite biographers of mine; Miranda Seymour and Mary S. Lovell. Of Lovell I have read; Jane Digby, A Scandalous Life, Sir Richard Burton, A Rage to Live, The Mitford Girls - the extraordinary lives of the six Mitford sisters. Luckily for me, there are more books to look forward to by these authors.


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