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Publisher's Summary

Was the world's wealthiest woman - Liliane Bettencourt - heir to an estimated $36 billion L'Oréal fortune, the victim of a con man? Or were her own family the real villains? This riveting narrative tells the real-life, shocking story behind the cause célèbre that has captivated both France and the world.

Liliane Bettencourt is the world's richest woman and the 11th wealthiest person on the planet as of 2016. But at 94, she's embroiled in an incredible controversy that has dominated the headlines and ensnared a former president of France in the controversy. Why? Thanks to an artist and photographer named François-Marie Banier, who was given hundreds of millions of dollars by Liliane. Liliane's daughter, Françoise, considers Banier a con man and filed a lawsuit against him, but Banier has a far different story to tell. It's all become Europe's biggest scandal in years, uncovering a shadowy corporate history, buried World War II secrets, illicit political payoffs, and much more.

Written by Tom Sancton, a Vanity Fair contributor and former Time correspondent currently living in France, The Bettencourt Affair is part courtroom drama; part upstairs-downstairs tale; part business narrative of a glamorous global company with past Nazi connections; and part character-driven story of a complex, fascinating family and the intruder who nearly tore it apart.

©2017 Tom Sancton (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 10-24-17

A Juicy Chronicle

With the recent death of Liliane Bettencourt, the heir to the L’Oréal fortune, I thought this newly published book (August 2017) about her was a good time to learn more about this reclusive woman.

The book reads like a novel as Liliane falls victim to a con man. One of the questions brought up was it actually her family that was the real villain. You will need to read the book and make up your own mind.

Liliane’s daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyer, filed a lawsuit against Liliane’s friend Francois-Marie Banier. The lawsuit accused Banier of exploitation of a weakness. This was in 2007 just at the onset of Liliane’s Alzheimer’s disease. Liliane gave Banier approximately one billion euros. I found it interesting that Liliana’s father was anti-Semitic. Then his granddaughter, Francoise, married a Jew and is raising her two sons in the Hebrew faith.

The book provides insight into the French judicial system which is based on Napoleonic code. It is a system that seems made to delay final decisions as cases wind their way through the different court systems. The book is well written and meticulously researched. It is easy to read and entertaining. I found the information about how the French courts work most interesting and I am glad I live under the American system of law.

The book is fourteen hours long. Amanda Carlin does a good job narrating the book. Carlin is an actress and longtime audiobook narrator.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Rise above the writer's attitudes

If you could sum up The Bettencourt Affair in three words, what would they be?

The author's personal attitudes and propensity to devalue others almost smother the book. If you can rise above that, there is a lot of documentation and valuable information to gleam from the efforts.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Bettencourt Affair?

The daughter, friends, and employees that worked to undermine the benefactor. I think the heiress' son in law was greatly underestimated in this theater. On the other hand, the son in law prevailed to secure a family legacy. It is very sad at the end the way a generous but handicapped (emotionally) woman, was overwhelmed after her husband (totally underestimated mostly by the author) passed away.

Have you listened to any of Amanda Carlin’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No. The narration was very good though.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Beggars and benefactors.

Any additional comments?

A testament as to how wealth can weaken a person without allies one becomes fair game. Her husband was grossly underestimated. While he lived she was never fair game. After he passed, the wolves moved in. The husband was actually the power, and it all went by the way side.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic read

very interesting story I liked the portrayal of each character and the auditors voice and mannerisms and especially the accents. Long book but very enjoyable

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Intriguing story

At first I was a bit startled by the narrator's voice... she sounded like Siri. However as I continued to listen, I liked her matter of fact delivery and command of French. Well done.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • MK
  • 11-27-17

Read by Siri?

The reader’s voice was very distracting. At times she sounds exactly like Siri, piecing together fragments of words that don’t flow. Other times she sounds like she desperately needs to clear her throat. Story was average. Nothing less. Nothing more.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Very good

A very detailed account of the lives of a dysfunctional family. I don' think Banier was trying to steal from her. I think she was a lonely old woman who should have been able to spend her money how she pleased. I think the daughter was more about the money.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The things we do for money

If this was fiction people would say it is to farfetched
What I like about this book are several
One a deep appreciation for the U. S. Judicial system
Two the book gave you great detail from the beginning all the way up today.
My only complaint and it is no fault of author. Is the names are in French. I had hart time keeping people straight who was who.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Good but too Newsy

This is a good summary of the long problematic lawsuit(s), but often it feels too much like a summary of news articles. Perhaps time will give more cohesiveness to the tale.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Colin McIntosh
  • 09-11-17

Fascinating story

You couldn't make this up and it is an incredibly engrossing case. Whilst you get the conclusion you can also draw your own. Narration is good but a lot of characters in the case to keep track of. Recommended