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"Bugatti Queen"

This article is more than 14 years old.

"Bugatti Queen" tells the story of the life of Helle Nice, whose chief distinction may have been that she drove racing cars very fast seventy and eighty years ago, when doing that was considerably more dangerous than it is today.

On the other hand, her chief distinction may have been the furious and shining energy with which Helle Nice lived her life, whether or not she was driving around in circles. She was a model, a dancer, and a fantastically successful self-promoter. She was also a survivor, which in part accounts for how she managed to live in France during the Nazi occupation. She was admired and sought after, but she was also envied, slandered, and,eventually, essentially forgotten.

Miranda Seymour has done an extraordinary job of aquainting herself with Helle Nice's career and her life, and of recreating the character from troves of newspaper accounts, letters, and various other sources which she encountered. Her accounts of Helle Nice's adventures on the track are remarkable, but her reconstruction of Nice's life in occupied France is at least as compelling.

Part of the energy evident throughout Bugatti Queen comes from Miranda Seymour's sense of mission. She wants the book to be worthy of her subject. "A heroine who rose from obscurity, and who now lies in an unmarked grave, deserves to be honored and recalled as she was once described, as a champion of the world," she writes. No one who reads Bugatti Queen will fail to see that Miranda Seymour has accomplished her goal.

This program aired on January 31, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

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