If you’re looking for a gripping Lockdown 2.0 read, then thank heavens Toto & Coco has just come out. This extraordinary true story has it all. Spies, sex, the great, the good, the very, very bad – and Coco Chanel on top. It’s also written by the wonderful Alan Frame, my former boss on The Daily Express, who has a wicked way with words.
This story is absolutely begging to be made into a film, and I’m just amazed I’ve never come across it before. Toto – real name Catherina Koopman – was sent to a finishing school in Knightsbridge to learn a little light flower arranging before the statutory society marriage. By the age of nineteen, though, that had all gone pear-shaped. She’d decamped to Paris, where she modelled for Chanel and was, according to the Daily Mail’s review, soon being ‘felt up’ by Coco herself. She left and flung herself into the arms of, amongst others, the film star Tallulah Bankhead, who also had a penchant for picking up schoolboys from Eton College.
Various glamorous affairs swiftly followed (I won’t ruin the book for you as you’re going to want to buy it) and she ended up in war-torn Europe, hob-nobbing with the enemy in order to write down military secrets and stow the info in her knickers. By the sound of it, she must have been walking around like John Wayne, because everyone seems to have wanted to whisper in her ear, to say the very least.
Poor Toto, it all got her into big trouble, as you’ll read. But gosh, what a ride. She truly had nine lives, too, surviving the Ravensbruck concentration camp as well as an affair with Lord Beaverbrook and his son. I think this book could be the next Tiger King, keeping us going through the next four weeks.