Miles has extracted the gems from ample research but offers scant original reporting. As he moves briskly through the decades, the anecdotes pile up like Legos, yielding a result that’s colorful but chaotic.
Miles’s evocation of the French Riviera is as fascinating in its historical sweep as its devotion to gossip and misbehaviour ... The book becomes a delirious chronicle of excess ... a phenomenal work of research across hundreds of histories, biographies, memoirs and letters. It shifts with masterly control across a dozen arenas from high art to low scandal, taking in fashion, sport, ballet and motor racing. It’s utterly absorbing, indelicate to a shocking degree and I devoured every page of it.
Entertaining ... Miles writes in a rattling from-the-hip fashion, which only adds to the book’s party atmosphere. A cycle of revelry and hangover persists ... The French Riviera emerges from this well-researched, enthusiastically shaped book as a constant temptation.
The stories of romance, intrigue, gambling, and heavy drinking are so many that his nearly 400-page history can feel a little repetitive at times. Yet Once Upon a Time World is much more than a book-sized gossip column. Miles’s whirlwind of characters coalesces into a narrative of booms and busts throughout the decades: the highs of the Belle Époque, the Roaring ’20s, and the 1950s—when Hollywood stars took the area’s glamor to a new level—but also the lows of both World Wars and the Great Depression.
This lively history of the French Riviera is filled with enchanting morsels ... The history of these visitors—who brought their native languages, architecture, religions, manners, and customs—reflects a broader history of European political jostling and industrial development. Occasional black-and-white illustrations help readers visualize the storied region and the art it inspired.