The Bugatti Queen: In Search of a Motor Racing Legend by Miranda Seymour Simon & Schuster, £15.99

A Jordan figure for the early 20th century
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The Independent Culture

This is one of those texts which reclaims the life of a forgotten woman. If that sounds like a turn-off, relax, because this is not a politically correct text.

The woman so lovingly chronicled by Miranda Seymour, comes across not as a feminist heroine, but as an emotionally stunted good-time girl, obsessed with sex and addicted to fame, a Jordan for the early 20th century.

Hélène Delangle, or as she preferred to style herself, Hellé Nice, was a French postmaster's daughter, who went to Paris, found fame and fortune not once but twice, then died alone, in the 1980s.

She was a successful dancer, who, after a skiing injury, reinvented herself as a racing driver, competing in Grand Prix and setting world records, some of which have not been broken.

She enjoyed lucrative sponsorship deals -- the face of Lucky Strike cigarettes and Esso petrol -- and lived high on the hog even in wartime. Which earned her an accusation of collaboration which left a huge stain on her reputation.

Although she lived her life craving to be the centre of attention, Hellé Nice doesn't quite manage to maintain star billing in her own biography. The Bugatti Queen is the story of early motor racing, and the people who gave their lives for speed. The book is littered with corpses. Ms Nice did well to last as long as she did.

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