For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel - the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman's daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century.
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an orphanage after their mother's death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle's exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.
Transforming herself into Coco, a seamstress and sometime torch singer, the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.
Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco's reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.
An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion, and artistic vision would become her trademarks.
©2015 C. W. Gortner (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
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"Fiction Not Biography"
I love a good biography and was so pleased when I found this title about Coco Chanel. I started listening and realized too late that I had made a mistake--this was not a biography. It is instead a fictionalized novel based on the life of Chanel. The story felt overly romanticized and too clean and neat to be the actual telling of a real life. I was left wondering--as I tried to progress with the book--what was true and what was fiction.
I am trying not to review books that I hate and award only one or two stars because it seems so negative and not always helpful. However, in this case I thought it best to point out that this is a work of fiction. To me, reality, history and facts all matter a great deal. What's more, truth is often far more engaging and compelling than fiction. So, if you are looking for the "real" Coco Chanel I would keep searching. Can't recommend.
"Felt too much like chick-lit for my liking"
Overall, I can't say I was very excited by Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel. Unlike another reviewer, I was indeed entirely clear when I got this book that it was a work of fiction and could expect plenty of free interpretation, but there could have been many ways to tell her story without making it sound like a Hollywood Romance. Only taking part in France, with French people, who are presumably speaking French to each other. I bring that part up because I am not American and found it very difficult to get into the spirit of things with a narrator who was so emphatically American in her delivery that it made the whole thing slightly surreal to me.
I think in retrospect I would have been better served with a straight biography of Gabrielle aka Coco Chanel. I am not a reader of romance by habit and I like my fiction as free of it as possible, and I certainly never in my life had any curiousity about how Coco Chanel might enjoy her sexual relations or not. I found these passages distracting and annoying and completely unnecessary.
There was little to like about the woman other than her clear determination to be one of the most successful fashion designers of her time. Whatever had to be done to get there, she did it. Here we saw a woman determined to leave her mark on the world, but also incredibly dependent on men and their money to make her place, just as she also presumably strives to remain completely independent. I was curious to see how the author would describe how she fared during the Second World War, as read somewhere a few years ago that she had presumably collaborated with the Nazis, though I had no other information than that. Here, once again, romance comes to the rescue and saves the day between her and her Nazi of choice. He was a 'good' Nazi, you understand, so really she was doing her country a service. She may have been a heartless bitch to her employees, but she was willing to sacrifice herself for a good cause, as long as there was promise of profits in the offing.
Truly, the book got on my nerves and I'm not sure why I stuck to it. I think the fact that it was written in the first person made it especially unpalatable, as this gave us an entirely subjective point of view on the kind of person she was without the benefit of the perspective of what her contemporaries thought of her very much.
Why am I even giving it three stars then? Because the author does a good job of describing the times and places, and as an entertainment, I suppose it was a good story. In fact it came highly recommended by a reviewer I've been following for quite a few years already. She may or may not have said words to the effect that it was a thumping good read. Of course, that is always a highly individual experience.
"Was curious about her so........."
I decided to listen. I enjoyed the story, but I would have liked the narrator to have had a French accent. I think it would have enhanced the story more. All in all a good listen.
This was one of those books that I didn't want to stop reading! The rich history that was woven into this story was so interesting and intriguing.
"Beautifully written and enticing"
The story of Coco Chanel is captivating. It is written as though in the first person which adds depth and personality to the characters in her life. The accents were well done if even sometimes dramatic.
"Best book I've read in years"
Interesting historical fiction story about the rise of Coco Chanel. Rags to riches in France over the course of WWI and WWII. She's an inspiration.
Great read! Much better than I expected. The detail was thorough. I always thought Coco was a collaborator with the Germans but this book cleared that up. She was a survivor on all levels. I even ordered my first bottle of Chanel no. 5!
I have always been a huge fan of the fashion line Chanel, so it was great to find out more about the original designer. Gabrielle's story is amazing, with a ton of ups and down, and you get to find out a lot about the history that was going out during her time. The reader was absolutely fabulous as well, it really felt like she could of been Gabrielle telling her story (even though this book is in english!) Definitely a must read/listen!
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