Book review: Seducing Ingrid Bergman

Seducing Ingrid Bergman --- by Chris Greenhalgh (Penguin, 2012) [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]

Seducing Ingrid Bergman — by Chris Greenhalgh (Penguin, 2012) [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]

‘Cast down, her lashes are so long, I notice, they almost touch her cheeks. When she looks up, her face lifts out of shadow. Her eyes are slices of paradise.’

Such is the evocative and wonderfully vivid prose that runs through Chris Greenhalgh’s recent novel, Seducing Ingrid Bergman (Penguin, 2012).

Greenhalgh’s style matches the backdrop: Paris in 1945. The war is over in Europe and the heroine of Casablanca is there to entertain the troops.

Greenhalgh tells the story—based to a large extent on truth—of the love affair between actress Ingrid Bergman and WWII front-line photographer Robert Capa. They meet at the Ritz in Paris. She is tired of the Hollywood rat race and of her unhappy marriage. He is tired of the horrors of war, still haunted by his girlfriend’s death. ‘She was crushed by a tank near Madrid.’

The book is from Capa’s viewpoint. When he features in a scene, the narrative is first person, present tense, and so real that the reader could be forgiven for believing it autobiographical. Scenes that describe Ingrid without him are third person, a little sad, perhaps. Sometimes lonely.

Omaha Beach, Normandy, 6 June 1944-----photograph taken by Robert Capa [Public domain]

Omaha Beach, Normandy, 6 June 1944 —photograph taken by Robert Capa [Public domain]

Robert Capa, the man who landed with the troops on D-Day, whose action shots on Omaha Beach made him famous throughout the world, wins the heart of the world’s most famous actress.

But Robert Capa, it seems is a man intent on going back to war, a man who cannot live in the peacetime world.

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